Thursday, February 16, 2017

Nevermind Nine

Nevermind nine, Alia would like to skip straight to ten thankyouverymuch.

Her Mama won't let her, though. Nine is quite old enough for my youngest child!

Alia has been very busy throughout the past year. She was a puppeteer with St. Paul Puppet Academy; in the Interpretive Movement Ministry at Our Savior Lutheran Church; completely rocked her first week at Camp Calumet Resident Camp and a week of Equestrian Camp - also a first; took many interesting classes at Epoch Arts Homeschool Co-op, and co-taught a couple; planted and tended plants as part of the Earthkeeping Team at church; and so much more!

She was...

an archer...

...a chaperone...


...a chef...


...a daredevil...


...an adventurer...

...a hairdresser...

 ...a fundraiser...

 ...a scientist...
...a zombie...

...and so much more. 

Alia amazes me every day with her wit, intelligence,  thoughtfulness, and energy, ingenuity, and perspectives on life, faith, and just about everything. 

Happy NINTH Birthday, Alia!!!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Strange Place



I'm in a strange place.

I'm better, but I'm worse. So much worse.

The new  combination of medications I'm on has greatly improved my energy levels and my all-around feeling of health. My inflammation is down. I'm moving better. I have more functional hours in a day. It's great!

And therein lies the problem.

I'm doing more, moving more, and in the process causing myself to be in incredible amounts of pain. The damage already done to my body by this disease does not react well to increased activity. My sacroiliac joints in particular are vigorously protesting. I have a really good, active day, and then I'm nearly bedridden from pain for days.

The struggle to get healthier through exercise is, at the moment, futile.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. This light takes the form of CT scan guided injections of pain medications and anti inflammatory drugs into my sacroiliac joints.The outcome of this procedure is reduced pain for months.

It is my hope that I'll be in another strange place as a result - a place I haven't been to in quite a while. I'm hopeful that as Spring draws near, I'll be able to gradually increase my activity levels, add some strengthening exercises to my daily routine, and eventually be able to hike on a regular basis, and without excruciating pain.

Until then, I'll spend some of these hibernation-worthy days doing just that ... curling up with a heating pad on my back, a few children in my bed, and watch some classics such as Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Strange places don't need to be bad places, after all. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Inclusion


"Your children have always been so well behaved during worship - how do you do it?"

I was speaking with a friend about inclusion of children in worship. Before experiencing worship in our congregation, she had assumed children went to the nursery or a separate children's church for all or most of worship, as that had been her experience of church as a child and in recent years. I explained to her that, in our congregation, children are included in all of worship because we believe that that's where they belong. Even "disruptive" children (I prefer to think of them as enthusiastic). Even children who might not understand what's going on. Even children that fidget in their seats.

It is in experiencing all of worship that our children come to understand what worship is all about. Children can't learn to sit relatively quietly and still through worship if they don't have the practice of doing so. They can't learn to navigate worship without a family member or friend answering their questions and guiding them through worship. And we can't learn how to help them get the most out of worship if we don't engage with them during worship.

"But what about special needs children?"

Three of my children qualify as special needs children. She was shocked. No way were my children special needs, in her opinion. 

My OCD child has always been fairly well-behaved during worship, or I'd assume so, since she spent much of ages 3-5 sitting with grandparents and great-grandparents in our congregation that she'd adopted as her own  for a good portion of worship. She did sing loudly. Incredibly loudly, come to think of it. And she seemed to be very into spontaneous liturgical dance. She did walk out on a sermon once, it being a repeat of what Pastor G had taught us during Tuesday Night Sunday School the previous Tuesday. Come to think of it, more than several times she could be heard singing hymns in the bathroom - during the quietest parts of worship. 

My autistic children weren't always the best behaved on a "normal" person's scale, but did incredibly well for what I would expect of them. There was the need to exit the sanctuary to spin or flap or sit for a few moments somewhere quieter so they could resume sitting relatively still through worship. They would forget to use their church voices when asking a question about worship. One child dove under the pew chairs to avoid sharing the peace, indicating the need to formulate an escape plan pre-sharing of the peace so said child didn't have to suffer other people trying to touch him.

I worked with my children to figure out what worked for them so that they could achieve maximum enjoyment of worship, and I could as well.

My children are rather well-behaved during worship now. Some of this is due to the work we put in figuring out what works best for them during worship, but much is due to the fact that they grew up being included in the entire worship experience. They always knew that they were just as welcome to share in worship as everyone else - that they, despite their age or their differences, were an essential part of the body that was missed if it wasn't there. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

And So I Pray



It's not OK. 

It's not OK to ban human beings from entering our country solely based on their religion or country of origin. 

It's not OK to prevent human beings from re-entering our their country after leaving for a funeral, other life event, or schooling, indefinitely separating them from their families who live here.

It's not OK to pick and choose which human beings are welcome to come to our country while excluding others on the false premise that they are more likely to be terrorists.

It's not OK to prevent fully vetted refugees - those who have gone through the process for three to four years - from completing their resettlement process. 

It's no OK to keep parents from their children, to rip families apart, to deny people access to their dying relative, or to force fellow human beings with every legal right to be here to go back to the terror from which they fled.

It's not OK to call yourself a Christian and then choose not to follow Jesus' command to love one another; choose not "go and do the same," as in the story of the Good Samaritan; or choose not follow the command in Leviticus 19:34, "Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own..."

It's not OK and I'm not OK. I'm sad. I'm confused. I'm heartbroken for humanity. I'm dumbfounded that intelligent people can't see past their own fears and insecurities to the heart of the matter - that this ban will do nothing to make our country safer or better; that it will only serve to hurt innocent people, keep families apart, and put many lives at risk. 

And so I pray. I pray for this country's leaders, that God might touch their minds and their hearts to the realities of the consequences of their actions or inaction. I pray for the millions of refugees awaiting resettlement, that God guide them to new homes where they will be safe, supported, and encouraged. I pray for all of us, that we may see those around us as fellow human beings, worthy of love and acceptance, not suspicion and fear; that we may assume good and see hope in those who take refuge among us, as we welcome the huddled masses, the tempest-tossed, with the open arms of liberty. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Just




When I had a horde of small children, I heard comments that I was "just" a stay at home mom.

Now that I'm mom to children ages 8-18, I'm still "just" a stay at home mom.

I JUST ...

... meet my children's needs - and many of their wants - twenty four hours a day.
... put aside some of my wants and needs in order to meet those of my children.
... clean the house over and over again in a day. Some days it looks greatly improved by the end of the day. Other days, it looks exactly the same as it did when the day began. Yet others, I choose fun or rest after so much cleaning. The mess will still be there in the morning.
... schedule and take children and myself to doctor appointments, including their primary care doctor, eye doctor, specialists for those who need them, and the dentist. 
... take responsibility for much of their learning and knowledge gathering.
... listen to stories that make absolutely no sense and never seem to end, and do it with excitement and joy.
... do the majority of the grocery shopping, clothes shopping, household shopping, and any other kind of shopping.
... deal with our family's finances, including figuring out ways to save as much money as possible.
... deal with hormones and mood swings and people not wanting to do what they're supposed to ... myself included.
... set an example for my children in all I do. 
... schedule outings, volunteer and learning opportunities, vacations, meetings, family get-togethers, and more. 
...cook meals and help the children learn to cook.
... answer approximately 3827 questions a day. 
... research medical, developmental, and mental conditions and how to treat them and their symptoms and how to best support my children (and myself) through them.
... get up in the middle of the night to deal with sick children, sleepwalkers, existential crises, or my own insomnia.
... provide first aid for everything from a concussion to an invisible, yet very painful and serious cut on a finger.
... help make Halloween costumes, theater costumes, Christmas decorations, and the like. 
... procure birthday and holiday gifts, wrap them, hide them, and try not to forget where I put them.
... volunteer a lot of my time doing things that feed my spirit, so that I don't get completely burned out taking care of everyone else all the time.

I probably do much more, but I've been interrupted seventeen times trying to write this one list.  

Just because my children are no longer toddlers, it doesn't mean that they need my presence any less - they just need it in a different way.

Just because my children are fairly self-sufficient, it doesn't mean they don't need my guidance any less - they just need guidance navigating more mature issues.

Just because my children don't need my constant care and require less of my time doesn't mean I have a ton of free time on my hands. It means I have more time to be involved in church, community, and educational pursuits so that I may better serve others.

So yes, I'm just a stay at home mom, and all the wonder, hard word, and chaos that entails!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Raw Beans


We had twenty-four hours to fit in as much us time as possible. 


After dropping off our five children at their very generous and kind grandparents' house for a sleepover, we headed for a quick dinner of sopa azteca and tableside guacamole...and an incredibly good margarita. We then made our way to the Bushnell Theater in Hartford to view Monty Python and the Holy Grail -one of the first movies we watched together - and for a storytelling and question answering evening with John Cleese. It was incredibly fun and funny - raw beans!

Getting up fairly early the next morning, we made a visit to Jacob Myjak for twenty-first anniversary tattoos. My OCD loved the fact that I got my twenty-first tattoo on my twenty-first anniversary. Jacob is twenty-one years old, so there's that as well. I got a willow tree above my first tattoo, which I got on my honeymoon when I was twenty-one years old. My husband got a mandala tattoo that I drew for him as an anniversary gift. It was not only wonderful to get tattoos, but to catch up with Jake and to hang out with Amber and their friends while waiting for the other to get tattooed. There's nothing quite like the sound of the tattoo machine mingled with Amber's beautiful voice as she rehearsed for an upcoming show...so relaxing and beautiful!


Ravenously hungry after getting tattoos, we lunched at Five Guys and then did a little thrift shopping. After picking up our children, we went home for dinner and A Series of Unfortunate Events. 

Having spent longer getting tattooed than we'd estimated, we extended our anniversary celebration to Sunday afternoon, when we relaxed in comfy recliners at the theater watching Hidden Figures before coming home to a dinner of loaded fries and more Unfortunate Events. 

It is my opinion that we should continue this celebration all year. I can barely wait to see what the next twenty-one years holds! 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Half Life


We have been married for half of our lives. Half. Of our lives. Twenty-one years.

First off, we were twenty-one when we were married. Just twenty-one, as in, two weeks or less after our twenty-first birthdays (we were born three days apart). We were incredibly young and emphatically certain that this was forever.


I can't say the past twenty-one years have been all hand-holding and loving adoration. We had some rocky months ... years. One thing never failed through it all - love. No matter how angry, frustrated, or just plain done we were with each other, we loved each other. I think it was because we love each other so deeply that we feel so hurt by the other or so badly for hurting the other.

Half of our lives. Twenty-one years. 


Our first twenty-one years of life conspired to put each of us just where we needed to be, when we needed to be there, in order to meet and fall in love with each other.

The second twenty-one years of our lives saw us through the loss of our first baby, the birth of five healthy babies, and the loss of twins. They gifted us many good memories filled with love, laughter, chaos, and myriad blessings. They challenged us with financial difficulties, job changes, and multiple diagnoses for children and myself that shape our daily lives. They brought us to today.


Today, I love my husband exponentially more than the day I married him. He is now not merely my best friend, lover, and life partner, but he is the father of our children. 
He is the man who went along with all of my out-of-the-box parenting decisions from co-sleeping and triandem nursing to homebirthing and homeschooling, and did so trusting that I was making the best decisions for our family. 





He continues to love me no matter how disabled I am, how much I weigh, or how much I struggle to get through each day. He still makes me laugh every day.

Tonight, our child-free celebration begins. And, as it would happen, will end within twenty-four hours due to impending snow. We're hoping for at least one hour for each year of marriage. 

Here's to the next twenty-one years!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Strange Man


My home phone rang just as I was about to start making dinner. Not wanting to deal with the possibility of a telemarketer, I let it go to the answering machine. The message left was not at all what I was expected. It was from an officer from the Suffield Police Department wanting my husband to call him back. 

I immediately called my husband at work. He immediately called the police department.

Apparently a call came into the Suffield Police Department. A concerned citizen reported a strange man walking around the neighborhood. That concerned citizen took down a license plate number and called the police. 

It was definitely my husband's license plate number. And the suspicious man was, in fact my husband. My husband had to explain to the police officer that he was merely playing Pokemon Go during his break at work.

We totally blame this on Coren and Alia, after all, he's catching Pokemon for them. Who'd have thought a cell phone app could cause such a thing?!


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Pilgrimage


Last night at Tuesday Night Sunday School our theme was Pilgrimage. We talked about the magi who went on a pilgrimage, following a star in search of a king. 

Yesterday afternoon, a young family arrived in Connecticut after a long pilgrimage from Istanbul, where they first sought refuge after fleeing their home in Syria. They were understandably exhausted. 

We talked about how the magi went to the house where Jesus was (not the stable) after speaking with Herod. It was mentioned that, after speaking with the magi, Herod ordered the killing of any child under age two - the slaughter of the holy innocents. This means Jesus could have been a toddler at the time of the magi's visit.

Perhaps the same age as the refugee child who, along with her family, was welcomed with open arms by members of New Start Ministry, Escorted to their new home they were delighted to see all the necessities, a toy basket for not-yet-two Elin, smiling faces, and a halal dinner that awaited them when they arrived. They didn't speak our language, nor we theirs, but the joy on their faces when they saw their new home and all their new belongings spoke volumes more than what could ever have been conveyed by the interpreter. 

But they didn't get to rest for long.

Joseph had a dream after the magi left telling him of the danger that was to come, and the family started out on yet another pilgrimage - one to Egypt, to safety. Who knows how long it took them to get there and the obstacles they faced while settling in to life in a new country. 

After hopefully a good night's sleep our family had visits from New Start team members to follow up with them after their journey and prepare them for what is to come. Almost-daily ESL and cultural adjustment meetings begin tomorrow. Next week brings visits to Social Security and DSS, as well as employment assessments on top of ESL and other meetings. 

As we journey through this new year, let us not forget the myriad pilgrimages of the past that have brought us to where we are today and made us who we are today. And may we hold in our hearts and our prayers those who are now on their own pilgrimages.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Focusing on 2017


Every new year, I choose a word that is my focus for the year. This time around, I've been struggling to decide on what word to pick. This is mostly because my mind has been all over the place lately and I can't seem to focus on any one thing.

Focus.

Perhaps that's what I need.

I need to focus on my children and be in the moment with them.
I need to focus on my marriage and nurture a closer relationship with my husband.
I need to focus on friendships and help them grow.
I need to focus on my health and what I need to do every day to be as healthy as I can be.
I need to focus on our finances and figure out a way back to the level of frugality we need to attain to get by.
I need to focus on our household and getting it decluttered and organized.
I need to focus on my many commitments and let go of those that don't serve me, or that I don't serve, well. 

2017 is a year to FOCUS.