Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ellen

My friend, Ellen, is the mother of five boys.
She is one of those people that is always on the move
and has changed a lot since I met her
a few years ago.
When Ellen and I met it was because
we had moved into her neighborhood.
Her oldest son was one of the
first people we talked to.
He was not shy in the least
as he got off the bus that day.
I recognize the time that Ellen has spent
searching for answers about
being a Mom,
a wife and a daughter of God.
I have seen growth manifested
in her life in all of these areas
and I am so proud
of the woman she has become.
Just today she told me about
yet another big step she is about to take
in her service for the Lord
and I just have to shake my head
in awe at the beauty of what the Lord
is doing in her life.
Ellen, you go girl!!!!
It hasn't always been easy...but...
You are making a difference
in the lives around you!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Update on Shelley

Please pray for Shelley.
She will likely have surgery
on her back next week.
Thanks!
Becky

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Did you Ever Drive Through A Rainbow?

It seemed exactly like that was what we did today. We spent the day finishing packing and final cleaning, I hope, at my mother-in-law's home that finally has a buyer and left in a caravan of 2 uncovered pick-ups, one covered pick-up and my van. When we left her former home it was hot and sunny. About halfway to the new house it began to rain. Shortly after this we had to cross a long bridge. To cross this bridge you come down a long tree-lined hill and then come onto the bridge out into the open. Today, the rain made steam and you really couldn't see that far but straight in front of us was this really low rainbow. It was amazing! I am sure that it is not scientifically possible to drive through a rainbow but....wow! It sure seemed like that was exacly what we did.

A few miles later...as I was on the cell with our youth pastor disaster struck. Ok, it was a small disaster, but given the torrential downpour we were in at that moment it seemed horrible. My wipers stopped in the middle of the window and made this awful sound. I could not see...at all! I yelled to Chris, the youth pastor, that I had to hang up right now and heard the concern in his voice. My eldest son assisted me in getting off the road into a lane that God had waiting for us. I calmly called my mother-in-law's cell phone, (she was riding with my husband), and told her what had happened and that I would wait out the storm and drive on home. Now, I am thinking that this would take, oh, a few minutes. NO! Picture us in this van after 1 and a half hours as this rain continues to swirl and we all are in desperate need of a potty break! Chelsea and Jonathan were wonderful. We attempted to read from Ishmael, the book that Jonathan is doing a study on in our Homeschool Co-op, but somehow the rain, lightning and thunder, mixed with the cars and trucks throwing water on us were just too much of a distraction. We tried, really.
Finally, after all of this waiting the rain let up to just a light shower. I thought, well this is our chance. Did you know that windshield wipers are very important? They are! We got a few yards down the road and I could see that moving was a very bad idea. So, again with Jonathan's assistance, we pulled into a Greenhouse business alongside the road where we sat a while longer. Every time I would start to get out of the car....serious downpour! So this is where we spent the next 20 to 30 minutes. When the rain let up enough, the owner of the greenhouse came out to see why we were sitting in his parking area, etc.
I explained about the wipers and when I described the noise they were making he assured me that that was not good...thanks! I needed that encouragement!
Meanwhile...at home...the trucks were unloaded and all was well. Finally, I guess we were missed because my dear hubby called to see why we were still sitting there and had not chosen to come home yet. I "calmly" explained that I would gladly be home if it would only stop raining for the 15 minutes that it would take to get there. He said that he would come and pick us up. O.k. that sounded like a good idea. SO ...I purchased two beautiful pumpkins from the man at the greenhouse, what girl doesn't need pumpkins at this time of the year, and since it had completely stopped raining...and since the obviously knowledgeable man at the greenhouse thought I could make it...AND since my bladder was now in serious danger of failing me...I left that point of expected contact with my husband.
Not the smartest decision...and I knew it at the time..I just thought surely we would pass on the road and I would get his attention and all would be well. Nope! I made it all the way home without spotting him...not a peep.
Now, I am home and Warren is wandering about looking for us without a cell phone so I cannot even tell him we are safe. Can you say sheepish? This was me when he pulled into the driveway after a 30 minute search for us. (I am so sorry, honey. But I really was in a bad way!)
I don't know why we were meant to spend so much time sitting by the road half scared, but I know that all things truly are in my loving Heavenly Father's care and that we are fine in Him.
So...If you see a rainbow...you decide...are you ready for an adventure???

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Old Friends

I heard from an old friend today.
Shelley is one of those people that you can not talk to for months
or even years
and when you pick up the phone
and hear her voice you just
pick up where you left off.
When we lived in Centre County,
Shelley and her family lived next door.
Our children were young so many
days we would just talk on the phone
instead of getting together.
It was fun to talk as we did our housework,
every once in a while waving through the windows,
as we both happened to pass by one at the same time.
Shelley was there for me so many times.
I remember being on bed rest for months
while expecting Chelsea and Shelley
taking my toddler boys into her home
every day from the time my dear husband
left for work until my mother would
get off work at 3pm to take over.
She did this without complaining.
And then there was the time
that Shelley fell through our ceiling.
She was helping me look for a birth
certificate in our attic.
We laughed so hard but
her leg and hip were bruised
for the longest time.
There are so many stories I could share...
Friends like this are lifetime friends.
I never want to lose touch with
Shelley and thank God for her.
She is struggling with serious back pain right
now and could use our thoughts and prayers.
Thanks, Shelley, for always being there!
You are the best!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Unbelievable!

I just went upstairs to find my 16 year old son listening to Celtic Instrumental Music...
on his own!
I had absolutely nothing to do with it!
This is my oldest child, who loves Christian Rock!
Usually the heavier the better!
Just thought I would share because I am amazed!
This is a moment for celebrating!
Really, he is laying on the couch, remote in hand
as he flips through the songs
on the CD.
Shocking!
Great!

A New Day!

Last week's big Field Trip was great! Oh, to be able to do that every week...well, maybe not. I am still recovering from all of the exciting input of seeing Patrick Henry's famous "Liberty or Death" speech reenacted and the beautiful horses and carriage carrying "Mrs. Martha Washington" into town. Ahhh... it was nice.

But, it is also nice to wake up in my own bed knowing that we have a plethora of interesting learning to get into here. It would be lovely if the children felt as interested as I, but, I guess I wasn't at their ages either. Anyway it makes it challenging to get their attention and get a brisk discussion going.

So, today we will be plowing through our math and spelling, then off to French and History before we read from our book, Airborn by Kenneth Oppel about a young man who is working on an airship to support his family after his father died. So far, so good. The kids are getting into it and even break out in giggles every now and then as the characters are described or act out.

Speaking of Airships, that reminds me that yesterday around 7:45 am Mikey came and got me to see a hot air balloon that was headed straight for our house. A year or so ago, one landed in our street so we thought maybe this would be another exciting time...but, alas, they just floated gracefully right over the tree tops and directly over our house. The people in the basket seemed entranced by the view they were seeing.

It did make me think of the book, Airborn, though, and how different it would be to float through the Air as if it were a cruise ship. This is how Kenneth Oppel makes this Airship appear. It is like a grand and glorious cruise ship in the air with all of the people on board caring only for their own luxuries. Only our hero of the story and his new friend have more serious concerns and a mystery to solve.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ripples in our World

Are you a Ripple or a Wave?
I am a leader.
It is a gift and a curse.
People ask me, "How should this be done?"
"How should I handle that?".
I spout out "wisdom" of all kinds on a daily basis.
Lord help those that are doing the asking
if they follow my advice.
:-)
The problem comes in when I think I should put myself into
every project that beckons me.
I see the potential.
I know how great everyone of these projects could be!!!!
I just know that if I do it...it'll be the best thing ever.
I often volunteer before others get to offer.
Lately, I have been thinking about making gentle ripples
in the pool of life instead of great tidal waves.
If I go around making big waves
who am I drowning in my wake?
A big wave goes by and makes lots of noise,
and quite an impression
and then it is over.
A gentle ripple lasts longer and has a pleasant way
of touching the surrounding area
spreading larger and larger until it is
smoothly absorbed into its surroundings.
So, this is my goal: to be a gentle ripple.
Gently touching lives around
me for Christ.
I don't want to continue to be that
huge wave who pushes others away in my quest for...
...whatever.
Through Your help, Lord...
Let me be a Ripple in your pond of life.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More Virginia Pictures

Mikey and Jonathan just have to do this every time we go to Williamsburg. At 6'4" I am pretty sure that it is getting more uncomfortable for Jonathan each time.
The Living Museum was the one thing that caught and held Mikey's attention while we were in Virginia...this... and the beach!

How do you get your 14 year old to come out of his shell?





At The Living Museum - Chelsea and Mikey build a fort. This was a great exhibit that is going to be at this museum until November. You must make it through this maze without "Dying" by losing all of your wealth, health, food, or morale. You earn these things by participating in games such as wall climbing, animal identification and answering questions about the Jamestown Colony. Just trust me that it is FUN and you really do learn! I "died" from a bad mosquito bite.




Doesn't Chelsea look darling in this garden?





This beautiful walkway beckoned to us...we just HAD to walk through it.

Colonial Williamsburg



After the great experience at Women of Faith it was on to a quick trip to Williamsburg, VA with the family and some other friends from our homeschool group. These pictures were taken about halfway through the first day...sorry for the poor quality...it gives an idea.
I am in the back in between my very tall son and the other son, the class clown. I am wearing a bright orange shirt. It came in handy when others were looking for us.

My dear friend, Mrs. Rabe, http://mrsrabe.blogspot.com/ suggested making the dresses for the girls. She was also inspired and talented enough to make one for herself. It was sweet to see the girls and Deanna coming up the main street looking so appropriate with their surroundings. Strangers asked for their picture! Honest! I witnessed it myself.

My mother helped Chelsea make her dress. Thanks Mom!!!
Chelsea is in the green dress with ponytails in the middle of the girls.
That day was as fun as it could be with two teenage boys who would rather have been somewhere else. They survived and the next day was more to their liking as we visited The Living Museum and Buckroe Beach.
The Living Museum is great. This must have been our third time there. We spent the most time this time of any and it just keeps getting better. Highly recommend it! Pictures to follow when I get them from Chelsea's camera.
Blessings on your day. We are off to get ready for our first day of Co-op.

Women of Faith

Where can you go to experience the fellowship of 18,000 women in worship? Well, one place is the Women of Faith Conference. I was there over this last weekend and cannot begin to explain the impact! I guess it would be an understatement to say that I went into the weekend exhausted mentally, physically and even spiritually. As I have mentioned before the past two years have been unbelievable in their intensity as Warren and I have lost our fathers, the children have gone through personal struggles and our mothers have moved into the neighborhood. We are thankful to have them here but the logistics of selling and buying houses is tiring, especially while everyone is grieving. Our church is facing major changes, for the better, but every change brings stress of its own. Our homeschool co-op is delightful... but it is work. Our CHALC (Coalition of Homeschoolers Across Lancaster County) Board is a wonderful group, but being Presidents for the last year,and this one coming, is also a huge responsibility, which we cannot take lightly. SO.....all of that to say...this chick was going in to that conference on fumes!

The conference begins with the incredible Worship Team leading this stadium full of women in beautiful praise. My eyes are still dry at this point. I am just loving it! I lead worship in our church and really appreciate the loveliness of what was happening. Thousands of voices lifted up to our Heavenly Father.

The Friday Pre-conference featured Sheila Walsh (!) and Dr. Henry Cloud talking about fulfilling those dreams that we have smothered out of busyness or FEAR. Taking those very difficult first steps to use the talents and gifts that God has placed in us. Whatever they may be.

Then came Saturday...Oh my! My eyes were barely dry the whole day. Now, I don't cry a lot in my day to day life. I'm just too busy keeping myself occupied to take time for cleansing tears...or any other kind. This is what started me off on Saturday...Sandi Patti!!!! That woman can really, really communicate through song. You have to understand that my Dad was a student of the hymns. When he prayed out loud he would often find the words of a hymn would say what he wanted to say better than he could so he would quote them at some point in nearly every prayer. At his funeral in November of 2005 we sang some of his favorites and I do mean sang. I determined that there would be no tears and in his honor I would sing with all that was in me...because Daddy would have loved it. And so I did!

Cut to this weekend and Sandi Patti...she sang those songs with all that was in her. Could I sing along? Oh No! I was immersed in the beauty of the song and the emotional devastation of missing my precious Daddy, whom there really has been little time to grieve. I wonder what the dear lady beside me was thinking as I sobbed. Good Grief!...no really! What I have learned in these past couple of years is that you can postpone those intensely painful feelings but you must and will go through them before it is over. Grief will not be avoided indefinitely. SO...here I am in the midst of it...Thanks Sandi!

Carol Kent was a new speaker to me. She is a mother. This woman has been through something that would be almost worse than the death of a child, if it weren't for the grace of God in their lives using this tragedy for God's purposes. Carol's son took the life of another man. He is in prison for life with no chance of parole...EVER! She has written many books but two that were featured this weekend were When I Lay My Isaac Down and A New Kind of Normal . I have not yet read these books but will as soon as possible. You can find more information about Carol at her web site. She is a truly amazing daughter of God!http://www.carolkent.org/books/index.html

Little Patsy Clairmont had us nearly rolling in the aisles with laughter as she recounted her travels to Israel and Africa over this past year. If you know anything about Patsy you know that she was an agorophobic who now speaks to thousands of women and who has high energy as well as a quirky sense of humor. From her trip up the Masada (Israel) in what she referred to as a tic tac box on a piece of floss (the cable car), to the recounting of the cape horn buffalo stampede in Africa she had us in stitches. http://www.womenoffaith.com/conferences/speakers/07/PatsyClairmont.asp

There was so much more...maybe I'll get to share later...All I can say is if you have opportunity to get to a Women of Faith Conference...run, do not walk, to get yourself a reservation. Push other commitments out of the way and do this for yourself and your family. Really! You'll appreciate them so much when you come home...and they appreciate you after a couple of days without you!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hospitality

When I was newly married and had our first home my ideas of entertaining guests were quite different than they are today. First, the house had to be absolutely spotless...there were no children then...now, there are children. If I waited to entertain until the house was spotless it would just never happen.
I used to think that guests wanted my undivided attention the entire time they were with me...wow, they must have been exhausted when they left! My current approach is that most are treated like family and can feel free to hang out in the kitchen as I prep or are free to hang out in the yard or living room whatever is most comfortable for them. Those who are in our home on a regular, even weekly, basis know where the coffee cups are and help themselves to the basics. I prefer it this way. It is not a huge event to have guests now so that I put it off. If after church on Sunday the idea hits to grab a family to invite for lunch I don't stress if the kids' schoolwork is not put away.
You know, it has occured to me that most people are more comfortable in a "lived in" home than a showplace. I guess that comes with experience.
As a result of my relaxation our home has become a frequent "hang-out" on Sunday nights for friends from church, whether they be singles, single parents, or young families looking for mentoring. I welcome them with open arms and point out the mug cupboard!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The candles are finally done

So...it is just past 11:00pm and I am so tired. I must get the candlemaking supplies in a more organized manner. It was so nice when we made the candles at the neighbor's house but didn't she up and sell her house to my mother-in-law!
O.k., I admit I had something to do with helping that to happen (and I am super glad that it happened)...but at the time I did not take into account what was going to happen to our entire inventory which is currently primarily in the garage and our dining room. This has been a recent transition so I'll figure it out but until then...I'm ahunting everything I need.
I now smell of an interesting combination of Honeysuckle, Pearberry, Tranquil Sleep, Ocean, Cinnamon Stick and Harvest Spice! Lovely scents...just not all at once. :-)
So, between our regular schoolwork, taking one son to work, picking him up, eating a fine meal that both Moms pitched in on, taking and picking up both boys to and from Youth Group, enjoying some time with a couple of neighbor kids and our Pastor and filling this order...it is time to snooze!

Making Candles

I will be making candles today. Our most recent order is for a local Relay for Life Team fundraiser. It is fun to make the candles since every one is a custom creation. We allow our organizations to take orders where the customer specifies size in ounces, fragrance and color of candle. It is interesting to see what people come up with. I am still waiting for an order for a hunter green chocolate candle.

I am invited to listen to a 13 year old friend who went to Peru after raising her support through selling our candles. She raised more than a $1,000 this way and I was so proud of Bethany and her parents! It is neat to have a part in that ministry opportunity.

It is for that reason that we have decided that all who choose us as a fundraiser will receive 50 percent of the retail price. I have seen way too many fundraisers where the organization ends up with 20 - 30% and those people work just as hard.

The other part of the candle business that keeps us busy is filling containers for folk. The amish in our area love soy candles and we have several families that we "fill" for. We pick up the containers, custom fill and then return the candles to them. It is so much fun to deliver the finished candles as it seems a little bit like Christmas each time with the excitement of the recipients and their joy at checking out the new scents and colors. We charge 50 cents an ounce for this service.

A couple of our small business ideas at work.

Do you have a reluctant reader?

Just some hints for some of my friends who are struggling to help their little ones enjoy books....

1. Read aloud to them - they will come to associate snuggle time on the couch with books.
2. Let them pick out a bunch of books for themselves at the local library. Check them out for yourself to see what caught their eye. Maybe they don't like fiction but get all the books on horses they can find...follow those clues.
3. Now focus some time on that subject and include games, writing projects and readalouds on that subject. Keep the assignments short and sweet.
4. Find books on tape that have the storybook your child can follow along in.
5. Some libraries have books on the computer that have the pictures and text scanned in . For some reason children seem to find things more fun if they are on the computer.
6. There are many free game sites that do grammar and spelling games. Do a search and let your child play his way through the reluctant period. He is learning and you aren't fighting.
7. Don't reserve reading for "school" time. Play reading games in the car or around the house. Have them hunt for words that you know they will likely find.
8. Allow your child to draw or color while you are reading if they want to. This seems to help some children be able to focus better.
9. Talk about what you have read and take cues from your child about what sparked his interest. Follow those cues!!!

Put all of these together and things will improve for you and your reluctant reader. Your most important focus is to keep the assignments manageable (short but frequent) and enjoyable.

Hang in there!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Today's Bowling Experience

Did you ever wish you could outgrow that insecure feeling that you felt in High School? Well, today mine came out in full force. There I was bowling with Jon and Chelsea having a total blast and a great game....if I do say so... when Chelsea began groaning in despair after each roll of the ball. She caught the eye of one of the coaches working with a lady beside us who then decided that she should be helpful. Poor Chelsea was so embarrassed to have been singled out and then I bowled poorly for the next few frames as this coach and then another came out to offer their advice.
Now, Jonathan, after receiving his instructions from these ladies proceeded to roll three strikes in a row as soon as their backs were turned...the turkey!
After these kind ladies left the building I finally pulled it together and got back into the game. The poor ladies were trying to be helpful. Why did I let my pride get in the way? Sigh....some of us just never grow up, I guess!

Adoring the Creator

Last week we were in Potter County, Pennsylvania. The slogan there is "God's Country". You know that in some ways that is true. We know that the Bible says, "The Heavens declare the glory of the Lord" and if we don't do it the very "rocks will cry out" in testimony of the greatness of God. Well, the untouched beauty and the clarity of the skies and the Milky Way in that area certainly do focus your attention on a Creator who made it all happen. More amazing than that is that He tells us all of this came into being with the sound of His voice.
You know, if I could just get my kids to clean up after themselves with the sound of my voice I would be very pleased but this is amazing. Creation screams, "Look to the Creator...HE did this!"
My cousin called the other night and was totally thrilled because for 20 years she has been trying to see the infant sea turtles make their migration from the nest to the sea. On Sunday it happened for her. She said they were so tiny but so perfect and they each had their own way of getting it done. The first one came out, moved around all of the obstacles walked into the ocean, pointed his nose just the right way and caught the first wave. The second little fellow insisted on doing it the hard way. He climbed over the seaweed in front of him, the equivelent of a large mountain, spent some time flipped over on his back, finally made it to the water, where after a couple of attempts he finally figured out how to catch the wave and off he went.
That so reminds me of we human beings. For some reason some of us really have to take the hard path. We have to try it ourselves and we flounder...but in His time and with His help His children will make it. We will catch that big wave.
Our Creator is worthy of worship and adoration in the biggest city or in the remotest mountain...but to me He surely is easier to see where His work is most untouched.
Lord, help me to see YOU everywhere and in everything today.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Surprise Birthday Party

Well, I have to give them credit. I was surprised about something. The party was kind of expected, though, since my 40th birthday fell on a Sunday on which there happened to be a fellowship meal at church. How could they not go about whispering and pretending to forget my birthday while telling me not to bring anything...I usually carry in a main dish. The secret phone calls and all of the usual things we do and think no one notices. It is amazing anyone is ever caught by surprise.

But, they did get me... and I bawled like a baby. There were cards and a few presents and then there was just one more...

I have done something that is very unusual for us. I've purchased tickets to a Christmas Concert in Philadelphia in early December for just my husband and myself. The last couple of years have been so hard with the passing of both of our fathers. The circumstances of both were very involved and have consumed our thoughts and emotions. Quite frankly, I am exhausted. So this is the first time that Warren and I will do something "fun" together in quite some time...without our precious children. Well, our dear friends and family at church decided that we should make a weekend of it and graciously gifted me the money to stay over. See, you would have cried too, right? What else could I do, the tears flowed like regular water works!

Many thanks to those generous friends and family for the hard work and love that went into making my day special.

Thanks for the cards and phone calls Grandma, Sarah and Uncle Cliff and Aunt Naomi. Loved it!

Everyone have a super day. I am off to teach some history to some of my favorite people on this planet.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Ball Game

Tonight was interesting.
The story begins in November of 2005 when my Daddy became gravely ill. He was in the Hospital and things went from bad to worse until finally within a week he was home in heaven. We knew that it was his desire to be an organ donor but knowing that most of his body had suffered terrible effects from Diabetes figured that it was only a nice thought on his part. We found out that this is not true and several individuals were able to benefit physically from my Daddy's passing. This means that we are now a part of a very unique group of people who share only their grief and a hope for others well being. Mom was made aware that she could make a quilt patch that would be added into a quilt for 2005 organ donors. She busily used some of Dad's shirts and cross-stitched his name onto a quilt square.
Now we get to this evening and the ball game. The quilt has been put together and was on display at our local ball game this evening. The donor program gave each family 4 comp tickets. I am not a huge fan of baseball....but I remember so well the am radio whistling while Dad listened to the games in the car...the nights we would pile into the car to see local teams play ball...Daddy loved it so it seems rather appropriate that this is how this whole donor experience should culminate.
We found the quilt at a booth and a gentleman who smiled from ear to ear at us as he explained that 7 years ago he was the recipient of a heart. It touched me to the core for I knew that his gain was someone's unbelievable pain. I wonder about that family and pray that they are aware of the joy that another family is experiencing because of their sacrifice. Believe me, the practicality of organ donation is rough. There are a lot of questions to answer at a time when that is the last thing you want to do. I think the only way Mom got through it was knowing that it was what Dad wanted. She had to do it for him.
The very subject of organ donation is touchy and very personal. I am still unclear of my own feelings in this matter...I just know that because of a decision made by my very generous father I am a part of the organ donor community and I think it is an ok place to be.
The ball game? We lost! Can you believe that we were up 7 runs to 0 and we still lost??? Did you know that teams don't shake hands at the end of the game anymore? Or was this a one time oversight? I was shocked and amazed and saddened that this simple courtesy was ignored. So, between the thousands of over imbibed souls who sat all around us, the lack of enthusiasm of the team and the seeming loss of courtesy, I think I am going to continue my passion for football and Nascar and let someone else sing about being "Taken out to the Ballgame".

Homeschooling Jonathan

This is an article that I wrote about our family and experiences hoping to get it published somewhere along the way...hope you enjoy it and if you do please pass on my blog info to someone else who needs some encouragement in thier homeschool or parenting roles.

It wasn’t that we had never thought about home schooling. In fact I had decided that I could not do it. After “home schooling” our first son for kindergarten I knew I was a failure. He was not responding academically. So we then made one of the larger mistakes of our lives. We handed our firstborn son, Jonathan David, over to the Public School System.

Now this was one of the best schools in one of the best districts in Central Pennsylvania. The teachers were very nice and caring people. I believe that the principal was very well intentioned. It wasn’t long before his teacher caught on that our Jonathan had some learning “issues”. One thing I have learned about schools and learning issues is that their answer to the problem is to structure a schedule chock full of those things which the child is weakest in. From morning to dismissal our Jonathan was faced with failure. He never got to do the things he was strong in. While his class was having social studies or science, he struggled to read or do more math or tried to get his pencil to cooperate. When he came home he got to do more, in the form of homework. What did we know? We weren’t professionals. We just tried to do what the teachers felt was best for our son.

It seemed so difficult for this sweet boy to catch onto even the simplest of concepts in math or even knowing where to begin writing on a page but he knew the name of every dinosaur ever “discovered” and animals were no strangers to him. Their habitats, likes and dislikes, he knew them all. He even found ways to distract the teachers and get them talking about his favorite subjects. They would find themselves sidetracked by a child who could use his words and communication skills to his advantage. This child was not stupid!

This was confirmed when I was called in to request my permission for Jonathan to undergo testing to find out what was “wrong” with him. The IQ test came back strong. Our child was intelligent. They discovered a “processing delay” that was interfering with his learning process. To understand where this most likely came from we have to go back to how Jonathan began his life.

In March of 1991 as I was into my ninth month of pregnancy, I began having dreams that my baby wasn’t normal. I would wake up terrified and have trouble shaking off the feeling. The routine ultrasounds were normal and I was reassured that everything was fine. After passing the due date it was decided that labor would be induced at the York Hospital. Warren and I were as excited as we could be. This was our first child and we knew nothing about what to expect other than you can read in those books or pamphlets the Doctors give you, or perhaps what we remembered from our Lamaze classes.
Labor was fairly normal and the delivery would have been, as well, had it not been for the need of a vacuum delivery. It would seem that in a “teaching hospital” such as York that this necessitated the observation of about ten lovely students. Yep! It was a special moment. But Jonathan was delivered and did not look bad, considering the plunger that had so recently been attached to his head. Then he began to cry. It was a soft, gentle cry. I, being very naive said that it was a nice cry and I could live with that. How wrong I was! Pretty soon the nurses said they were going to take our son and get him cleaned up. We were euphoric and began calling family. I called my mother in State College and she said she was on her way. Warren’s parents weren’t far away in southern York County so they were in quickly.

After the initial rush of phone calls we were ready to see our baby again, but the nurses didn’t seem to be bringing him back so Warren walked out to the nursery where he was shocked to find a team of nurses and doctors working frantically with our new infant. He returned to the room confused and shaken. Soon after, the pediatrician we had chosen came into the room and told us that our son had a very unusual and very serious birth defect. This was called a diaphragmatic hernia and our son had a 50 percent chance of survival. He would need immediate surgery and we would have to wait three days to see if he would survive, this, his first challenge in life.

A diaphragmatic hernia happens when the diaphragm does not close in development allowing the stomach and intestines to grow in the chest, suppressing the lung development. This explained our son’s gentle cry. To fix this defect a pediatric surgeon must immediately open up the baby’s chest and move the organs to their proper places then stitch up the diaphragm. After this is done, you must wait and see if the lungs are capable of inflating and working on their own. This process takes three days. Our doctor explained that in the York Hospital five infants had been born with this condition and three had not survived. Our son was in serious trouble.

Of course we gave our consent for surgery and as my mother came jubilantly to the hospital to meet her first grandson, she was met with the news that she must visit him quickly as he was being taken down the hall to surgery. She may never see him again. Talk about highs and lows. This brought new meaning to those words for all of us.

Jonathan survived the surgery to begin the waiting process for his lungs. The findings of the surgery were strange. Not only did he have the diaphragmatic hernia, but also some extra spleens. They were removed. After putting things back as they should be in his abdomen, Jonathan’s appendix ended up on the wrong side so the wise surgeon removed it, as well, so that it would never fail and be undiagnosed because of its placement on the wrong side of his body.

The first time we saw Jonathan after surgery we were struck by two things. One was his size. This child was a whopping 8lbs 15oz next to preemies that were less than 3 pounds. The second thing that really sticks in my memory is the size of his chest. After having everything up there during his time in the womb Jonathan looked like a linebacker!

My father had arrived by this time, coming separately from Mom after learning that Jonathan was ill. He had stopped at the hospital gift shop and picked up a sweet stuffed lamb. This little lamb stayed with Jonathan in his incubator the whole time he was in the hospital. That lamb is always in the picture in my mind’s eye as I look back on those days.

There were so many tubes and so much equipment. We waited. They sent me home. That has to be one of the hardest things a parent can do. Leaving the hospital without your child. It isn’t natural. But it was necessary. They were right. I needed to go home and get rest. I could visit my son all day but I was taken home at night. They knew that if Jonathan survived we had a long road of healing and just plain newborn sleeplessness to get through.

After the three days had passed it seemed that Jonathan was going to make it. He came off the respirator and breathed on his own. We visited him in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for two weeks and then were allowed to bring him home. His doctors were amazed. They called him a miracle baby. Children with this birth defect simply do not go home this quickly!

Maybe you have received a phone call or email with a prayer request for a parent and child who are suffering illness. May I just ask you to take a moment and really lift them before the Lord immediately? It really does make a difference! We know that God could just as easily taken Jonathan home to Heaven. And He would have been every bit as Just and Powerful as He was in his healing of our son but the prayers of the people sustained us and encouraged us as things were so intense and difficult.

Because of the time spent in NICU Jonathan was followed up by a developmental specialist. She was very pleased that Jonathan was doing everything on schedule or early. His bright mind and gift for communication at an early age kept all of us in the dark about the struggles that were yet to come apparently as a result of the lack of oxygen and/or the medications used.

As previously explained, the early days of school were challenging for all involved. They were so difficult with a very dark day happening unexpectedly. I volunteered at the school in Jonathan’s classroom and that of his younger brother, Mikey. On this day the school principal called me into her office and showed me a note that Jonathan had written. In his poor handwriting he had struggled to write that he wished he were dead. Oh, the pain and agony that went through me as I vaguely remember the principal saying that we should consider parenting classes and she seemed to place the blame on my dear husband for making Jonathan do the homework that this very school had insisted be finished nightly. I knew then and there that things were out of hand. We had observed anger building in our naturally gentle child. We had observed him begin to bully his younger brother. We knew something wasn’t right but now it was beginning to come together for us. How many adults was our pleaser son trying to please? I counted. Mom, Dad, Teacher, Teacher’s Aid, Specialist, Principal…and more! How was he attempting to please? By doing things that were impossible for him to do. He simply did not have the ability to accomplish the tasks set before him each and every day. He surely did try, though. This child is one who craves peace and approval. He worked so hard to try to provide that for all of us.

As we came to the understanding that there were processing delays we understood why classroom learning was not working for Jonathan. The tests revealed about 20 minutes from information intake to the ability to express it back to someone. In a classroom you simply do not have that luxury. The class has moved on. Jonathan was left terribly behind. I mourned the future that I had expected him to have. I cried for the pain that he had already suffered and what was to come. This came as a shock to me as I did not strategically plan out his future in my mind. It was just kind of there, all of those expectations that you hold for your firstborn son. How could I expect his future to be normal now? Ask yourself, what is normal? Interesting question.

While we were made aware of his deficits, we were also being told about his progress. In their defense, I believe the teachers felt there were true gains, however, in reality any information that was apparently gained was lost quickly in the weeks to follow. I did not become aware of this until we had taken a huge step. The day we were made aware of Jonathan’s statement of despair began a process for me of learning all I could about home schooling. Warren and I agreed that pulling Jonathan out for a “catch-up” year would be a good solution. I could then work on the processing issues, get him back on track with his class and put him back in the following year. O.K. so I was still na├»ve!

The principal at the school was very supportive of our decision and allowed Jonathan to attend all music and gym classes with his class over the year he was out. This worked out nicely as the classmates all really liked Jonathan and were happy to see him several times a week.

I recruited the help and support of a Special Ed teacher from the district who was also a family friend and shared our values. We agreed to meet quarterly and review Jonathan’s plan. Remember, I already “knew” I was a failure at home schooling. I needed the confidence that came from this woman.

It did not take long for me to begin to grasp the importance of what we were doing. The very first day of our home school experience we snuggled on the couch with our books and opened with prayer. Two really big hazel eyes stared up at me in amazement as he said, “Oh, Mommy, we could never do that in school!” What a huge smile was on his face. I was hooked! This kid would never go back to school.

Jonathan began to learn. As we met quarterly with our advisor she would document progress. We would spend time learning through his strengths. Jonathan liked dinosaurs so we read together about dinosaurs. He liked science so his writing assignments could come from science topics. I could pace the lessons so he could keep up.

At the same time, our middle son had been through kindergarten and was now in first grade in the same public school. Each morning he would get on the bus, often in tears. I was feeling such a pull in my heart as I let him go each day. This lasted only through that year and then Mikey joined our home school.

Our second year of home school began in Lancaster County as Warren got a new job. We now had three in our home school. Miss Chelsea Lynne began kindergarten. What a ray of sunshine! Chelsea made teaching easy as she loved learning to read and write and is currently pursuing the life of an author at the tender age of 12. She is building web pages and writes music, as well.

We joined a co-op of home school families in the Lancaster County area and found a new kind of support. While it took the children a while to make friends they have found lifetime friends. Each year as it is time to begin co-op the excitement builds in our home. I have found myself on the co-op committee serving with an absolutely outstanding group of women. I am finding that there are many, many children who learn differently out here in our home school community. I have learned of many sacrifices that parents are making to meet their children’s needs. I have sought out and found many resources that are available to our children with learning “issues”. It has finally sunk into this insecure brain that there is no one on this planet who can love my children as much, know them or want the best for them as much as my husband and I do. With God’s help we will produce the people that God intends for them to be.

Today Mikey is 14 and works part time at our local Agway. Jonathan is 16 and a history channel buff. Really! I don’t think there is much he doesn’t know about any weapon used in battle or most wars. Jonathan is still a struggling reader, having been through vision therapy and many phonics programs, tutoring and computer helps. Does that hurt his exposure to great literature – heaven’s no! He raids our library’s books on tape library as often as I will take him there. Who would think that this young man would love the library? He actually was reading at a 7th grade level when last tested so I can’t even tell you that his silent reading is behind that much. He really struggles with losing his place as his eyes really don’t like to track that well. Jonathan’s biggest deficits remain in math, where he works at about a third grade level. But science, communication, history and Bible are strong and important to him. He recently joined our church and is very active in it, operating the overhead projector and taking the offering. He is a very key person in the Youth Group and cares very much about those around him. I am extremely proud of the young man who is Jonathan David and am thankful that God led us to pour ourselves into him and did not allow my insecurity stop the process.

If you are struggling with a child who learns differently, I would encourage you to seek God’s will and follow His still small voice in your heart. These children are loaded with potential and we are being given the tools to find and release it!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Introducing Myself

On Sunday I will turn 40! While this is supposed to be a time to shudder and spend oodles of quality time in reflection and consideration for how we have lived the first "half" of our lives I am excited to see this milestone come.

I am married to a very hardworking and wonderful man who cares so much for his family. He is my best earthly friend.

We have three wonderful, if human, children whom I spend a great deal of time with since we homeschool together. Oh, the things I learn as we discuss the topics of history, science and more. Time is winding down on our homeschool years as our youngest is 12 and in the 7th grade. You can find her blog at http://thefriendsatsunset.blogspot.com/. Chelsea is a writer, a planner and my biggest encourager. She loves to help around the house and is always interested in learning how to do those homemaker skills such as cooking, sewing and now cake decorating.
The middle child is Mikey, 14, who wishes he were 21 and done with this growing up process. Little does he know that there is no magic number that allows you to feel grown up and free to do whatever you wish. We will keep working on that understanding with him. In the meantime he is a busy boy with a passion for skateboarding, working at a local feed store and participating in his Youth Group.
Our oldest is Jonathan, 16. He is extremely sensitive and caring and sees himself in a counseling career at some time in the future. Jonathan has had his share of struggles with learning and has perservered. We have found many techniques of teaching that I will share on this blog. So many times my heart has ached for him as he struggled to do the simplest math problems but at the same time I marvel at his ability to know every detail about some complex war that he heard only briefly about. He is indeed a special one.

We live in a home filled with 2 cats, 2 dogs, several fish and a guinea pig. Our assortment of animals is completed by the chickens who give us fresh eggs most days (they are outside...in case there was a question!).

We attend a small local congregation of believers with whom our family spends the majority of our social time. This is a time of change for our church as we are in the process of seeking a new location for Sunday worship and seeking the Lord's will in our affiliation in or out of a denomination.

The kids and I participate in a home school coop, which has been a true blessing. We have all made lifetime friends there.

My husband and I serve on our County Homeschool Coalition Board and are pleased to assist in the preparations for the countywide graduation ceremony which has nearly 100 graduates each year. It keeps us motivated to keep going in the daily efforts of learning until it is our turn to celebrate on that stage!

I have two things that I do in an effort to supplement the family income. For the past 11 years I have been a Personal Financial Analyst and very much enjoy helping friends reach their dreams and goals in a way that honors and glorifies God. So many times we get mixed messages about our finances. I strive to assist people in living debt free and saving in the best ways available to them.

The other thing that I do more as a hobby is candlemaking. I got into this because my former neighbor made candles for her own use and had retired. She was looking for something to do and I offered to use my knowledge of finance to help her start a candle company. I found out that making candles is a blast and joined her in the creative process. We make soy or gel candles only as we are not fond of soot! You can see some of our products at www.goodneighborscandles.com. I really need to spend some quality time on that site updating, etc but it is fun to see what we enjoy making.

Enough for now. I have so much to share. I have been reading blogs for a little while now and accumulating ideas as to what I might like to share with you.