A notable change

Since the beginning of the year, I have been doing two things consistently every morning. I read the daily office and the Forward Movement’s Forward Day by Day meditation (they have an app for that so I’m not constantly hunting for the little book) and I read the Bible in one year reading plan at She Reads Truth. During Lent, I’ve added a couple of different devotionals: Lent is Not Rocket Science; Holy Habits: For the Holy Season of Lent, and 40 Things to Give up for Lent and Beyond. I mostly manage to read these all before or during breakfast and it works for me. I didn’t realize the total change it was making in me, though, until today.

You see, today was hectic. We had our bi-weekly service project that we do with the Men’s Ministry at our church. Last spring, I asked if there were jobs that the kids could do and I was told that they could try, now they are a significant part of the team. But to do this, we have to leave the house rather early and given certain people’s ability to sleep in (mine), especially when I spent a good portion of the night with Katie sleeping on me, it wasn’t possible to read before we left. When we got there, we realized that the job we were doing was going to be quite a bit larger than usual and we were there for a lot longer than planned.

When we got home, after a stop at Steak and Shake because the kids worked super hard and because the thought of trying to make lunch actually terrified me in that moment, we were in a whirlwind of homeschool stuff and then blessed quiet time. Except that during quiet time I was trying to deal with things that need to be dealt with before we go on a field trip tomorrow followed by me teaching a children’s lesson during our Wednesday night program at church. So, no the reading didn’t get done then either.

After P came home, it was dinner: biscuits, brisket, and broccoli — one of Ben’s favorite meals (partially the alliteration, partially all his favorite foods on one plate). And then it was on to working on a paper for my paying job. It took longer than planned (they always do) and then it was bedtime and story time.

Once my little people were tucked into bed, then it was time to crank out the stuff for the church newsletter. This involves editing, hunting down photos and other such fun tasks, so I can hand it all off to the person who doesn’t use a Mac and who does all this spiffy stuff in Microsoft Publisher. So, again, no reading for me.

Once I finished all of that I realized that my edges seemed sharper today. I was more emotional and more easily upset. I sat down a bit ago and did the reading that I hadn’t done this morning and I noted a significant change in attitude just from reading. I feel calmer. I feel more at peace and more connected with the world and more forgiving.

I hesitate to call it intentional time with the Lord because, well, I feel like I’m making more of what I do than it is, but on the other hand, that’s my time to seek to understand and to pray and to make requests. I pray at other times, too, but I think the daily action has spawned something I didn’t anticipate.

Evolving Theory of Homeschooling

I’ve been homeschooling since Ben was 4 years old. We started out doing what we can generously call school at home. Ben did worksheets, lots of worksheets. But as we’ve progressed in homeschooling, I’m finding that I’m not satisfied with school at home and I’m not comfortable working on the “conveyer belt.” I’ve been doing a lot of reading in Charlotte Mason and Thomas Jefferson Education. Both of these are gentler forms of education and put less pressure on the kids and allow them to develop a more natural love of learning.

Of course, Ben is suspicious of anything new or that even smells like pushing himself. It takes time and patience to get him to try new things. What I’m learning from all of my reading is that he needs to see me doing things, hard things, and pushing myself to encourage him to push himself. I also know that I need to work along side him and help him learn how to do things himself.

I think about this stuff in terms of Ben because Katie’s love of learning is natural whereas Ben’s has been a struggle to bring to life. He did love learning when he was little, but I think I pushed to hard on the wrong things and didn’t give him a good chance to get a foundation underneath him.

He’s having successes in classes and that is huge for him and I’m seeing him express more interest in learning than he ever has before, but I know I can’ t push and that I have to take my time in order to get him where he needs to go. Fortunately, time is something that we have.

The Shrinking of Time

I realized earlier this week that I am possibly going to collapse from the sheer amount of “stuff” that we’re doing this month. I always say that I get sick in March, but it never really occurred to me until today that I get sick because February somehow always ends up super-stacked and I have so much going on that I can’t stop and rest. I’m not complaining. My kids are healthy, active kids involved in a few activities, but not, I don’t think overscheduled, but somehow February seems to be the confluence point of all the activities into one haze of busy stuff.

Part of it is my seeming inability to say no. What I find fascinating about it is that people have started volunteering me for things I neither offered nor was asked to do. I want to figure out how to not promise things I may not be able to deliver. I’m just so tired.

My goal this year is to use the word “inspire” as my focus. As I look back on January, I don’t know if I can honestly say that I have inspired anyone at anything. I love the activities I do and the things I’m involved in and I don’t want to give any of them up, but I also don’t want to drown or develop yet another upper respiratory infection. I can do with out that. So, I am thinking about how to protect my health this month and still accomplish the list of things that I have to do.

Basically, it’s about eating well, drinking tons of water, and resting where I can. I may not be the first person to come up with that; won’t be the last, but I also know that I need to reevaluate the way I schedule activities and my time so that I don’t end up with these sorts of energy crises on a regular basis.

About a Week Ago

We were back in Dr. T’s office for Katie’s annual visit. We had done a lot of preparatory work with Katie for this visit. We had discussed things he might want to do. Things he might need her to do (e.g., have an x-ray taken), and we talked about how she could make it easier for herself and for everyone else (lie still and not fidget so they didn’t have to use a needle in her arm to help her stay still). We knew going in that the news wouldn’t be what any parent would hope for in this situation. We were not going to be told that the hole was closed and she was free to go. We all knew it. The last remaining hole is still there. So we were prepared for the worst.

What we got was both better and worse than we expected. Katie was Katie. She read herself a book while she waited for Dr. T to come in. She felt very sorry for the child in the other room who was screaming and wanted to go let the other kid know that Dr. T is awesome and he doesn’t need to be afraid, but we convinced her that she didn’t need to do that. They checked height, weight, and head circumference. Unsurprisingly, Katie has gained a pound since he saw her last year and approximately one inch. So the growth spurt we were all eagerly anticipating did not occur. Sigh.

When Dr. T came in, he asked if she could read. She looked at him like you’d expect — silly man, I could do that last year. Heck last year, she wrote her own list of requests. This year she didn’t come with any because she knew this was likely a take away appointment rather than a give to her appointment. He asked Katie how her head is and she was up front with him. I still have a hole right here, and she rubbed her fingers over the spot. He wooged her head (imagine someone else rubbing shampoo into your scalp, that’s kind of like what he does). He said it feels a little smaller, doesn’t it? Katie said she thought so, but she knew it wasn’t closed.

And then we started discussing. January or June. He first wanted to see her again in June 2016 so that if we have to do something we could do it after school let’s out and she would be all set to go when school restarts in August. When I reminded him that we homeschool so that’s irrelevant, then he said, well, then I guess we could go with January. And then he said, no, June. Let’s stick with June. And then the blow, whatever minimally invasive procedure might have been on the table for her is now off the table. If the hole doesn’t fill in she will need surgery.

I understand the reasoning. The minimally invasive procedure has an approximate 50% success rate and it takes a year to determine if it has been successful or not. If we did it now, that would be fine, but if we want to wait, doing full blown cranial surgery at age 8 1/2 is not ideal. It’s not ideal for multiple reasons, but the one that likely makes a difference is that it can destroy a girl’s self-image to have her scar revealed for the world to see and lose a substantial amount of hair. Especially for a girl who has been so patient and worked so hard to grow out her hair. Although, speaking of hair we have learned that the reason that Katie rejects buns so strenuously in dance is because setting one up (that will stay while she dances) pulls on her scar and hurts her.

The surgical procedure is deceptively simple. He will reopen the incision (as we now get to call it instead of the scar, since it may soon be an active part of her body again rather than a reminder of past events), peel back her skin and seed the whole with bone fragments from her and from the bone bank. While there, he also wants to shore up her temples because they are sinking, which they should not be doing. He’ll put a plate over the hole and hopefully the whole thing will heal up and grow and that will be the end of it.

Her restrictions remain the same, no sharp sticks, no soccer, and no body weight over her head (so no hanging upside down on the monkey bars for Katie — not that she would, she says the blood rushing to her head feeling hurts her scar, sigh). And now we have a ticking clock.

Katie sees this as a continuation of God’s plan for her. Whatever happens is what is supposed to happen so that other people can learn about her birth defect and learn how all the treatments work. She’s an amazing kid is our Katie. All she asks of all of you is that you lift her in prayer that God’s will be done with her head. So, if you’ve put her on your church’s prayer chain, leave her there. If you haven’t, please feel free to add her. She believes she has come as far as she has through prayer and the grace of God, and she believes that He will answer our prayers in the way that is best for Katie and her “ministry” (she sees my blogging about her head as a ministry for those who come behind her with trig).

One Little Word 2015

I’ve been flirting with Ali Edwards’ One Little Word project since 2011. I picked a word in 2011 (Joy) and I did a few of the prompts, but the good Lord knows that I am not a scrapbooker. I was disappointed with myself and didn’t try it again for a couple of years, but last year I decided to choose the word Brave. It ended up being a far more challenging year than I could ever have imagined and yet, I think I lived out my word far more than I could have imagined. I knew that in 2014 I would have to face a huge loss, and I did, ten days into the year. But beyond that, I did things in the last year that I simply would not have done, but I used the word brave as a spur even though I, again, failed at the scrapbooking aspect of it. I spoke in front of a group of adults who weren’t students. I have danced in a semi-public forum. I have done activities with both of my kids that I would not have considered before. I even took on a leadership role in an organization that my daughter is now involved in.

All of that said, I am giving this whole thing another go. This year, for so many reasons, I’ve chosen the word “inspire.” We’ve been exploring some alternative ways of approaching school with the kids because I’ve been seeing too much stress in our six year old. One of the methods we’ve been looking at has as one of its mantras “inspire, not require” and that was part of the word choosing me. Part of it was an alternative definition, inspire also means to breathe. I love it. I’m excited to see where inspire leads all of us this year.

Year in Review — 2014

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before? Became a squad leader for American Heritage Girls.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I did not make resolutions.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes, a friend from church gave birth to the most precious little girl, and another friend gave birth YESTERDAY to another beautiful little girl.
4. Did anyone close to you die? Sam
5. What countries did you visit? None.
6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014? Peace. I would like very much for my life to be more peaceful
7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? January 10. The day we lost the bravest, most stubborn dog in the world.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Surviving the almost overwhelming waves of grief.
9. What was your biggest failure? Being afraid of making waves and speaking up when things aren’t going right.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Usual assortment of colds and lung issues.
11. What was the best thing you bought? A Midori Traveler’s Notebook. Thanks to it I have finally achieved planner peace.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? I’m not sure how to answer this. We were all grieving and we all handled it differently — some more productively than others.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Kids who have apparently been taught that different means bad. It’s like reliving my childhood.
14. Where did most of your money go? Judy’s Dance Academy (and I will gladly give her even more; the kids are thriving there).
15. What did you get really excited about? Zac Brown Concert.
16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2014? “Drink a Beer” — Luke Bryan; “Compass” — Lady Antebellum; “Overcomer” — Mandisa; “Thrive” — Casting Crowns; “Keep Me in Your Heart” — Warren Zevon; “Remember Me” — Mark Schultz; “Shine” — Newsboys; “Keeping Score” — Francesca Battistelli; “I’m Not Going to Miss You” — Glenn Campbell
17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder? Very sad. Trying to build a new normal without Sam has been one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. And so very hard.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Expressing grief in front of the kids so they’d know how to do it.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Listen to other people tell me that she was just a dog. Caring about others’ opinions about anything.
20. How did you spend Christmas? With family. I went to Christmas day service again. So glad we’ve started doing that :)
21. Did you fall in love in 2014? With Spirit FM. It’s radio I can actually have on in my car and not worry about what the kids are hearing.
22. Think of something important to mention. Choosing a word for the year can be simultaneously the most exciting and most difficult things you can do to yourself.
23. How many one-night stands? None.
24. What was your favorite TV program? Criminal Minds (although I’m watching on Netflix and not current). Also loved Gracepoint.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I don’t hate anyone. I dislike a number of people, but I don’t hate anyone.
26. What was the best book you read? The Goldfinch Donna Tartt
27. What was your greatest musical discovery? Francesca Battistelli
28. What did you want and get? A new phone with more memory than even I can use.
29. What did you want and not get? More time with Sam.
30. What was your favorite film of this year? Mom’s Night Out
31. What did you do on your birthday? I don’t remember.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? A family vision.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014? Capri pants and t-shirts. I’m pretty steady that way.
34. What kept you sane? Friends who understand me.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? George Clooney (though he is no longer “available” so I may need to rethink this now).
36. What political issue stirred you the most? Balancing gun rights with the right to not fear being out in public.
37. Who do you miss? Sam.
38. Who was the best new person you met? Rowena.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014. Unexpressed grief leads to anger which leads to much larger messes than just admitting you’re grieving and letting that happen.
40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I am a mess; I am a wrecking ball

I must confess that I still don’t get it all

Lord I believe that all your words are true

It doesn’t matter where I’m going if I’m going with you.

I press on. I press on. I press on. When I still don’t get it. I press on.

“Press On” Building 429

Peyton Turns Nine

This could be a very short post or it could be long. One never knows when it comes to the world’s happiest dog. Peyton turned nine two days ago, not that anyone seeing her would ever know that unless they saw the grey around her muzzle. That’s the only clue you have that this dog is getting older.

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Peyton has had a tough transition this year. Sam was the boss around here. Everyone, including Peyton, danced to Sam’s tune whatever it happened to be that particular day. My first true realization that Sam might be in trouble the night she died was the way Peyton was acting. She was whimpering and trying to shove in the gate that separated the two of them. The next morning, we let Peyton in to smell Sam and to see her so she would, hopefully, understand that Sam was gone. We think she did, but she’s been a very different dog since that day.

February brought more stress in that we had discovered lumps on Peyton a couple of months prior. Given our experience with Sam, we all agreed that removal and biopsy were the only option. The kids were told that Peyton was going in for a routine teeth cleaning (which was also happening), but I knew there was a chance we’d lose her on the table if he opened her up and found cancer everywhere. I was more or less prepared for that possibility and thank God that he had someone call me the second she was open and he DIDN’T see anything indicating she was essentially a walking dead dog.

So, after that drama, we settled into life with Peyton as an only dog. She doesn’t love this life, I don’t think. She doesn’t like being the one in charge. She doesn’t like having to remind people to feed her. She’s not a noisy dog, so there have been days she’s been forgotten for awhile until we start looking for her. Every time she can, she escapes into my room and lies down in the exact spot where Sam died. It is more than a little freaky. The first time she did it, she scared me to death (to be honest) because lying down, you really can’t tell the difference between the girls.

Peyton had her annual pain in the backside ear infection. I swear, when I schedule Ben for full day camp this summer, I’m just going to go ahead and schedule a vet appointment for Peyton. Every year since he’s started going to full day camp, I have had to take her to the vet.

Peyton went to her first animal blessing this year. I’m not sure she really understood it. She was so excited to be OUT with PEOPLE. She almost doesn’t know what to do with herself.

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She’s also enjoyed, sort of, the slightly more open house where we let people come here. The last two years of Sam’s life, no one came to the house unless it was absolutely necessary. Now, the kids have friends come over and we have a dog who doesn’t think a kid playing with one of her kids is necessarily attempting to kill her kid. In fact, Peyton likes to join in. What kid doesn’t enjoy being tackled by a 68 pound Lab?

So, the happiest dog in the world remains the happiest dog in the world, with occasional melancholy moments. She did allow me to get a birthday photograph and I will be very grateful for that.