Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sheltered


They say my homeschooled children are sheltered. That public school with its bullying, drugs, and cliques is the real world. And that my children will never learn how to handle the tough stuff life has to offer.

While other children are learning about other cultures through textbooks,
my children are helping a family of refugees - "our family" as they call them - from Syria; listening to and reading news reports and articles about Syrians, Kurds, and ISIS all fighting over "our family's" home. They are learning what life was like for "our family" after they fled to Istanbul, Turkey - how refugees are treated as scum of the earth and living conditions are barely liveable. The realities of not-even-close-to-living wages; lack of food, healthcare, safety, and security that refugees face is made all to clear as we learn more about their experiences.

With their own eyes, they are seeing the Muslim religion in action through this peaceful, thankful, kind family.

While other children are being offered drugs and alcohol in and after school by their peers, my children are learning about the effects of addiction in a more personal way. Participating in an "Arts Response to Addiction," teens researched addiction and its effect on all it touches and responded with art, song, dance, and spoken word. Addiction was given a face at a memorial service for an acquaintance who died of a heroin overdose; and witnessing no less than five police officers and security guards attempting to hold down someone under the influence of drugs in the emergency department while we were there with our own emergency brought one of my children into stark realization of the dire consequences of addiction.

This, they learn, this is what addiction looks like.

While other children are bullying, being bullied, or witnessing bullying at school, my children are becoming friends with the bullied - with students pulled out of school and into the homeschool world by parents concerned for their child's physical, mental, and emotional safety and wellbeing. As they share experiences with these children, they learn what they can do to help both the bullied and the bully. 

In another Arts Response, this one about responding to hate with love, two of my children fearlessly shared their faith and how to respond in love and forgiveness through song and spoken word. 

They take to heart that  violence and hatred aren't the answer to violence and hatred - that compassion and love can work wonders on any broken soul.

While other children are experiencing hate due to skin color, religious belief, mental ability, gender identity, or socioeconomic status, my children are learning how to respond to hate with love. They are getting to know a rainbow of people of different ages, abilities, gender identities, walks of faith ... and to celebrate their differences. 

They are comfortable being themselves and encouraging others to embrace their own uniqueness as well. 

Sheltered? Perhaps they are sheltered from witnessing and experiencing the gossip, social pressures, and judgements of their peers that they would experience at school. But they are most definitely not sheltered from the realities of our world, as they spend much of their time out and about in the real world, witnessing its realities, helping those in need when they can, and striving to make changes for the good.









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.