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Homeschool Roller Coaster

For my birthday (which was yesterday) Mr. Sexy sent me to my girl friend’s house for a night of some R&R.  (More to come later because I have amazing friends and family.) The visit was much needed and while I got to hang out with her beautiful girls, my kids were nowhere to be found.  I missed them – sort of.  But then when their baby wouldn’t sleep or their toddler happened to throw a tantrum I remembered what I was getting a break from.  This meant Mr. Sexy was home dealing with all that mess.  By himself.  It was fun for him- I think -sort of.  But it also had it’s difficulties as Mr. Sexy saw firsthand many of the difficulties I face with Marie every-day-all-day.

We are getting off the homeschool roller coaster.

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I Home School

I’m homeschooling.

There are handfuls of people who probably think I shouldn’t be homeschooling. I don’t know this for a fact as no one has said this directly to me. But I have heard some things.  I also sense the ideas in questions I receive when I talk about Marie.

Those concerns, questions and opinions are battles for me.

Simply going to church is a battle.  Everywhere my family goes there are concerns, questions and opinions.  When these things are brought to my attention, my defenses shoot up high and fast.  This makes me difficult to talk to. I have answers for most questions and concerns that come my way because it all gets repeated.  New town, same story. And that’s okay because God is alive in our home.

I don’t think I have made it clear how much homeschooling has lessened stress for me at home.

When Marie was in public school, the bus picked her up and dropped her off.  I woke up early to get her showered, dressed and fed. Mornings were the worst for us. I tried many ways to encourage her to pick up the pace and get things done so she would be on time. Lists, pictures, nagging, doing it all for her.  S-T-R-E-S-S

But then I had the entire day to myself. Wooo!!!! Yet by the time 3:30 would roll around I could feel the stress of what was to come creep up on me. What was it going to be today?  Did she eat her lunch on the bus? Did she sneak some nail polish on the bus and eat that instead? Did she pull her hair out of her nice up-do again? What about her “friends?” Did she kick anybody today? Was she disruptive in the classroom again? Are the buttons ripped off her new shirt? There was just about always something that would be wrong. Some of it was minor, as you can see.  But other times it wasn’t so small.

After she got home there was a rush of things for me to deal with. Her appearance (torn clothing ect.), the report of her day, finding things in her backpack that aren’t supposed to be there, looking at the homework hoping she would understand it.

Between getting home from school and bedtime there was a very small window to deal with what happened in her day, to get her homework done and to eat dinner and go to bed on time.  Forget playing.

S-T-R-E-S-S

Now we home school. It’s not perfect.  It’s not stress free, by any means. But it’s working for us.

We get up leisurely now. Our schooling doesn’t have a definitive start and end point.  For instance, this morning she is going to be starting an hour and a half late because I have had a rough morning. There are some days where we don’t get to school at all. Don’t worry, that doesn’t happen often.

Homeschooling is helping to improve my relationship with Marie.  That seems backwards, even to me. While we have our really bad days, we also have good days.  This morning, with Denai sitting on my lap, I asked Marie to refill my coffee cup. That’s progress. It’s progress for her brain and it’s progress in our relationship. When I ask her to do something that is for me, (it’s almost a selfish thing) it’s a small way that I show I’m willing to accept her and what she has to offer in my life.

While the stress from her public school days are gone, there is still stress being home all day together. She finds things to eat when she feels she won’t be caught. (She will actually get up and look through stuff to find something.) If I leave the room, she likes to behave inappropriately – which is really irritating. She struggles with the most basic schooling concepts and I just want her to GET IT. She takes a really long time to learn.

Ultimately, that is why I home school. She takes a really long time to learn.

In math I have spent an entire math working with her on 1 + 0 = 1. I have learned that she learns well visually.  So we use blocks on the carpet to visually see that a number plus nothing equals that same number in the number sentence.  It’s hard for her to understand which is frustrating to me because I don’t see how it’s a difficult concept.  However, she’s starting to get it.  Slowly.

So, I home school. It’s the right decision for us right now.

What Changed?

Many families can go camping – or go on a number of other activities and vacations – and have a lovely time.  Typically, I would say there is always an amount of stress involved in getting everyone and everything ready to go – especially with small children who “help” or older children who can’t be bothered to be removed from personal comfort.  Yet, overall, families move on and have wonderful experiences together.  Some would even call it relaxing and peaceful.  That’s why we, the Sexy family, enjoy camping so much.

Yet it’s not all that peaceful and relaxing.  At least, not for me.  And if I’m feeling grumpy, for example, it plays into each family member and even effects the friends we are visiting with.

For me, family activities are tense and stressful with very little release.

Saturday night was our second night camping with our friends and I was almost begging Mr. Sexy to put the two girls to bed early so I could finally relax.  Denai was exhausted anyways but putting her to bed before the sun leaves typically proves difficult.  Marie, on the other hand, was a gem.  No signs of grumpiness there.  However, she tends to be my main source of tension these days.  So bedtime is something I always look forward to.

Mr. Sexy has been telling me often I need to relax.  WE need to relax.  But it ain’t all that simple.

Something has changed between me and Marie and I have been spending a lot of time deep in thought about what it is.  A few months ago I was getting into the habit of being purposeful in my loving actions towards her, regardless of what feelings were feeling like.  The heart changes began immediately and true connection starting peeking its head out.  I saw glimpses of a genuine relationship with huge potential.  In each other we were finding small pieces of comfort and humor.

That’s all gone now.  I feel as if I have gone backwards a year or so.  There are huge feelings happening to me and I am getting lost in it.

After visiting a class on spiritual warfare this weekend (read about the author, Dr. Karl Payne), after seeing the pain in Mr. Sexy’s eyes every day, I have realized what it is that has changed.

I gave up.

I accepted.

I welcomed.

I have become completely complacent in my relationship with Marie.  There are two feelings at play now.  Numbness (if that’s even a feeling) and anger.  I feel numb to her when she isn’t around (you know, the sleeping part).  I feel angry when I see her.

I know how this sounds.  I even know what you are thinking.   I know because everything, EVERYTHING has been said to me when I begin to discuss the deep, dirty issues that life offers.  In order to put anyone’s uneasy mind at rest, Mr. Sexy and I are seeking help in all avenues.  He is in counseling, we are meeting with a behavioral specialist (appointment is today YAY!), we are also seeking help spiritually and I am slowly making my way back to counseling.

I have a line from a song in my head.  I’m not exactly sure what it means, especially out of context:

Slow down, let my heart catch up to your heart.

(You can preview this song, Bethany, for yourself.)

It’s playing over and over and over again.

Perhaps I need to slow down and fill my mind with the Holy Spirit.  Only through His strength will I be able to fight of those who torment my mind with all these huge feelings.

I have been thinking and talking a lot about feelings lately.  It was only a handful of years ago that I learned and realized that feelings are just that.  Feelings.  When they are good, it’s awesome.  But they aren’t always good.  Sometimes it’s bad, like anger.  Good or bad, feelings are not to be trusted.  In my experience, feelings should not be trusted.  Period.  Unless weighed in with something else.

Fighting the feelings is exhausting work.  But hey, giving in to the feelings leaves me just as tired!  Either way, it’s a battle.  So if it’s going to be hard work either way, shouldn’t I choose to challenge the big feelings and fight off the untruthfuls?  As I am typing this, I’m thinking, duh!  How dense are you?!  But that’s no way for me to talk to myself…. or is that something else filling my mind with more hurtful thoughts and feelings?

Life is messy.  It’s so messy.  Oftentimes it feels (there are those feelings again) like we are going to be lost in the storm forever.

I’m thankful for friends who can sometimes see more clearly than I.

I know it seems impossible, but you will make it through this. 

You will figure this out. 

I believe in you. 

I love you. 

These are the thoughts we should be focusing on.  

Step-Parenting Special Needs: My Journey Through Parenthood

S is for Step-parenting Special needs.

Everyone has a unique story.  This one is no exception.  It’s not a story I ever expected to be a part of.  God has is plans, though, and I’m privy to it only as he allows.

I tend to share my journey openly and as honestly as possible.  This leaves much room for criticisms.  I have lost friendships, too.  People I thought believed in the hope and redemption of Jesus turned out to believe there is only hope and redemption for some people.  I am not one of those people, according to them.

In all the struggles that I have shared with friends, family and strangers, I remind myself constantly that I am not alone.  I can’t be.  I’m human and a sinner just like the rest of the world.  I have received many emails from people who have the same struggles I have described but have never heard it voiced before.

Just because we choose to have children, whether it’s through adoption, marriage or child birth, doesn’t mean we are immune to anger, resentment, and even hatred towards those small, innocent hearts.  That doesn’t mean we should act on those feelings.  But they must be dealt with.  Otherwise the seed will grow and become a monster.

I have seen this monster in the mirror.  It was a scary thing to not recognize myself.  It was even scarier to see the effects on my family.

The best thing I ever did – and still do – is be honest about where I’m at.

I don’t understand Marie.  She does a lot of weird things that seem to yell DOWN SYNDROME in my face.  I am constantly angry at her so she is constantly in trouble.  I have felt a huge amount of resentment and hatred towards her.  It was overwhelming.  There were some days I simply couldn’t be in the same room as her.  She has done things that made my entire body shake with rage.

What I was seeing was the behavior.
I wasn’t able to see the heart.
What I was seeing was down syndrome.
 I wasn’t able to see the girl.

What I am able to see now is that the anger issue has less and less to do with Marie and down syndrome and more and more to do with me.

Where does this anger come from?  Wouldn’t it make sense that anger comes from pain?

Now, as the adult, as the parent, it’s my job to work through whatever pain I have been hiding from.

This is the A-Z blogging challenge so go ahead and read the introduction and see a list of all my A-Z posts.

Guilt: My Journey Through Parenthood

G is for Guilt.

Guilt is a nasty little booger.
It eats away at me and pokes and prods.

On the surface, guilt makes me feel safe.
You did it once.  So do it again.  And again.
Now I feel hopeless.
And stuck.
Because guilt plays a nasty little game with my mind.

Sometimes I relish in the feelings guilt can provide.
I enjoy the sorrowfulness of my personal pity party.
However I don’t enjoy the heavy heart I wear.
Booze should help with that.
But does it really?
Guilt is still there and following me around.
It doesn’t let up and it doesn’t get tired.

Guilt is nasty and mean and plays tricks in my head.
Guilt clouds my mind so I can see nothing else.

Guilt is a nasty little booger.
Guilt plays a nasty little game.
In the end, however, guilt doesn’t win.
Forgiveness eventually reaches my heart.
Forgiveness clears my head and wipes away the guilt.
Forgiveness becomes my salvation.

Without forgiveness, I am lost.
Without forgiveness, we are all lost.

This is the A-Z blogging challenge so go ahead and read the introduction and see a list of all my A-Z posts.

Feelings: My Journey Through Parenthood

F is for Feelings.

There are 5 hearts in my family, each attached with 5 different sets of feelings.  How in the world is that supposed to work?!

I wish that I could just go with the flow of my feelings.  I wish I could believe the naive thoughts that the phrase “go with how your heart feels” is always good advice.  I wish that my feelings told me truths  all the time.

The truth is that how I feel does not necessarily depict a truth.

Here’s a hard-to-share-example:

I feel like I can’t stand Marie.  In the past I have gone so far as to voice that I feel like I hate her.  Then I met a group of people who, after hearing me speak about her, would say, “Wow, I can see you really love her.”  Say what?!  That was not how I was feeling at all!  What I felt was the opposite of love!  I kept meeting with this same group of people and they told me these things over and over again.

Eventually I saw the truths behind their words.  If I stop to think about my frustrations with Marie I realize it comes from a place of caring about her.  Now that I know that about myself I can stop feeling hatred and start learning to love and hopefully one day I can honestly say I feel that love.

I heard once that feelings don’t always come first.  Actions do.  So if I make the daily choice, scratch that, the moment-by-moment choice, to show an action of love, the idea would be that the feeling will follow eventually.

Mr. Sexy uses this philosophy on me all the time.  I’m not alway easy to love.  Sometimes what Mr. Sexy feels like doing is punching a car window or taking off for a drive or yelling at me so I can see how pissed he is.  But he’s not the man he used to be.  Instead he puts aside his feelings and does something that shows me love.  Over and over and over again he does this.

The result:  It works.  And although healthy changes in our family feel very slow, the fact is there are changes.  My friends and family may not see them.  I may not always even see them.  But change is happening.

As I am learning that my feelings are not absolute truths, Michael is learning that same lesson.  I cannot describe how humbling it is to be learning a concept alongside my six-year old son.  So many times he has watched me white knuckle the steering wheel, breathing big, deep breaths while angry tears streamed down my face because my feelings were giving me untruths and I had to fight that.

I’m definitely not perfect in how I handle all my feelings.  I made mistakes yesterday and today and I will make more tomorrow.

But here’s the truth: A feeling is just a feeling and not rooted in absolute truth.  For absolute truth I will need to turn to my Bible.  And that is where I will learn how to love.

Christmas, 2013

This is the A-Z blogging challenge so go ahead and read the introduction and see a list of all my A-Z posts.

Exhaustion: My Journey Through Parenthood

E is for Exhaustion.

This is my first semester being a homeschool mom.  Things have changed a lot since I was the home-schooled kid.  My mom was my teacher with answer keys and lesson plans.  Anything I learned, I learned from her.  Now things are different.  Thus, homeschooling is not what I expected.

In some ways it’s easier.  Marie has a teacher so I don’t have to to know all the answers (although I should at grade levels 1 and 2).  Her learning is all completely online.  Her time with teachers is via webcam every day.  So really, I don’t have to lift a finger.

In other ways, it’s a lot harder.  When I start something new I go all in and go a little crazy.  I typically spend a few hours every day creating my own worksheets for Marie to further help her understand the concepts being taught in the program.  On top of that I spend time teaching her these concepts as well.  My opinion is that an online course alone is not enough – particularly with Marie’s disability.

This all leaves me feeling exhausted.  

I have been tired out by the kids before. But now it’s even more so.  Sometimes, by the time Mr. Sexy gets home all I can do is hand off the baby and sit like a zombie while I watch a Grey’s Anatomy re-run.  And the next day I choose to do it all over again.

Why?  Well, apparently I care about Marie, her education and her future.

This is the A-Z blogging challenge.  Go ahead and read the introduction and see a list of my other A-Z posts.