Redemption Stories {A New Blog Series}

I laid in bed on October 1st. 31 Days had just kicked off.

Having most of my posts scheduled for the month before the series ever started, it left me wide open to think about the future. November, December, then beyond into 2015.

The word redemption came to my mind.

I had picked out a song to sing in church three weeks later.

I’ll build an altar with
The rubble that You’ve found me in
And every stone will sing
Of what You can redeem Continue reading

“Bite for Bite” – a strategy to try when kids refuse to eat

Author’s note: This “trick” is probably not all that original and can probably be found elsewhere on the internet. It’s also not guaranteed to work on every child. Just something to add to your arsenal of things to try.

“Bite for Bite” – a strategy to try when kids refuse to eat Continue reading

I’m dreaming of a white(space) Christmas

They say that, “We plan and God laughs.”

While I’m not sure that I believe that, I think the Proverb indicates how often life doesn’t fall in line with our plans. Such could not be truer of this year’s quest for whitespace – doing less in hopes of lowering my stress levels and find more space for personal and spiritual development.

As we head into the holiday season, I’m refocusing again onto the idea of whitespace.

Last year, the holidays were incredibly difficult to me. I went through an invisible struggle with depression, and most days, just felt downright apathy toward the whole holiday endeavor. I couldn’t really see past the circumstances we were in (my husband’s untreated anxiety, cramped living situation, my husband’s no-time-off work schedule, and limited finances) and wrap my head around celebrating much of anything. When I did try, it felt forced and faked, like I wasn’t really present in the moment, but rather playing a role in a play or movie. I was disconnected, and the fact that I was didn’t bother me, which bothered me. (If that makes any sense at all.)

Social media is a beast at the holidays. It just is. Not only do you have to combat comparison as you scroll through your Facebook and Instagram feed, but blog posts about what the holidays should, shouldn’t, or could look like are abounding. Continue reading

9 lessons learned from mothering through fatigue

I am continually in awe of the tired moms who land here every day, at the posts from the archives about mothering tired that continue to get sometimes hundreds of hits every day, and at the encouragement that all of this brings to both myself and others.

Fatigue wears you down, isolates you from others, and makes you feel like you are utterly alone.

Seeing something good come of it is worth everything to me.

So, what I’d like to do now is offer some advice to moms struggling with fatigue. These are lessons I’ve had to learn – most of them, the hard way.

9 lessons learned from mothering through fatigue Continue reading

Beauty in the Mess ~ Edition 11.10.14

It’s been quite some time since the last edition, and there is so much beauty to share.

Ezra is responding incredibly well to treatment at his therapeutic day program (TDP) – aka “school.” The staff is amazing and is giving us a lot of evidence-based parenting advice that is tailored to Ezra’s specific needs. We are already seeing improvements in his moods, sleep, and behavior – not just at school but also at home AND out in the community!

Ezra’s first day of the program:

06 first day of school again

Here are some incredible things that we have witnessed over the last few weeks: Continue reading

Shifting Focus {and how my blogging might need to change}

I sit here failing for words. I feel like I’m on the verge of something new, but yet unable to put my finger on what that might be.

I tell my husband these things in the car. We are talking about my blog. He speaks of goal-setting and then he tells me to figure out what my one message should be. The one thing I want to teach or share, if I were speaking to a live audience. And then to keep coming back to that one thing.

“Yeah, but I already know what that is…” I tell him.

“It’s finding God’s beauty in my mess, and giving others hope that they can find God’s beauty in their mess too.”

I believe that this message is something that I have come back to time and time again, and successfully so.

But I’ve focused a lot – maybe too much – on the mess.

The mess of mothering a difficult child.

The mess of loving a combat veteran.

The mess of a troubled spiritual past.

The mess of developing personal identity.

The mess of mothering through chronic fatigue syndrome.

At Allume, Katie and I got to talking about how, so often, we just long for people to truly get how much we have been through, and what we are going through. I think a lot of this has come out in my blogging.

It’s been a lot about my mess.

There’s been a lot of self-justification. Continue reading

He came home

There’s just something about Christmas music that conjures up the ghosts of Christmases past. Each year, as the music streams out of Pandora, the floods of memories come.

This morning, a man read the poem “The Night Before Christmas” and it reminded me of a Hallmark recordable storybook that my husband recorded for our infant son before he left for his second deployment to Afghanistan. All throughout that year, we listened to the book. April, July, October…it didn’t matter. And I remember every intonation of his voice, every pause, every stumble over the words.

I remember being both grateful that we had this gift and scared that maybe this would be the last thing we ever had of him. Continue reading

What if I’ve been telling my story all wrong? {takeaways from Allume 2014}

I’m heading into my sixth year of blogging. Over the last three years of those six years, I’ve shifted away from a newsy family update site to focus on writing and telling my story. I’ve shed away layers and layers of my veneer, exposing the deepest and darkest parts of my heart. It’s been raw and authentic and vulnerable. And this is what you, my readers, have come to expect. At least, that’s what I think you expect.

But can I let you all in a little {big} secret? Sometimes I feel like I’m on a train that’s about to wreck and I can’t stop it. Over and over I hit the publish button and it’s become almost a compulsion to do so.

Must. share. the. words.

Must. go. deep.

Must. be. vulnerable.

Must. tell. my. story.

And then I lie awake at night wondering, What have I done? What am I doing? Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the biggest mistake I’ve ever made?

At Allume, Emily Wierenga said, “I’d been so focused on being heard that I’d forgotten what is was I was saying.”

And then she said, “The cost of finding your voice can be losing your soul.”

And I wonder if that’s what I’ve done. Continue reading

Ultimate list of encouraging blog posts for special needs families {and those who love them}

We have finally made it to day 31 of 31 Days of Supporting the Special Needs Family!!! To view the story behind this series and the series contents, please visit the landing page. Today, we are ending with a bang and sharing special needs link love from all over the blogosphere. I hope that these posts will fill in the gaps that we weren’t able to cover this month and bring you encouragement.

Ultimate list of encouraging blog posts for special needs families {and those who love them} Continue reading

Dialogue: what not to say – and what TO say – to special needs parents

This is day 30 of 31 Days of Supporting the Special Needs Family. To view the story behind this series and the series contents, please visit the landing page

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I had originally planned to entitle this post “What Not To Say To a Special Needs Parent.” But I believe that, as well-meaning as such a title might be, the intent behind what we are trying to do with this series might get lost.

We have taken a good long look at what community looks like – can look like – both good and bad, from both “sides” of the table. And the last thing that we want is for special needs families to become MORE isolated because non-special needs families simply don’t know what to say any more, how not to offend, what to do.

So what I would like to do with this post is share what some special needs parents have to say in regard to dialogue and communication. What things they don’t like to hear, and what things they do! This isn’t meant to be a list of “no-no’s,” but rather a helpful tool in engaging conversation all the way around. Continue reading

3 #Ausome Apps for Children with Autism

This is day 29 of 31 Days of Supporting the Special Needs Family. To view the story behind this series and the series contents, please visit the landing page. Today, Katie Emanuel is back, guest posting about her favorite autism-friendly apps for her son.  

3 ausome apps for children with autism Continue reading

25 Ways for Special Needs Parents to Recharge and Reach Out

This is day 28 of 31 Days of Supporting the Special Needs Family. To view the story behind this series and the series contents, please visit the landing page. Today, Chantale from Virtually a Teacher is guest posting about self-care for the special needs parent.

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How did I get here? Sitting on my bathroom floor, sobbing. I look up and in the mirror I see a person that I don’t recognize. A pale face from staying inside too often, eyes with black circles under them from years of sleepless nights, an overweight body from overindulging on comfort food and thinning hair from overwhelming stress. My heart is beating quickly, I can’t stop crying and I feel so alone. Who is this person? How did I get here?

I am a special need parent. Both my sons have autism. I love my children with all my heart. They are the same precious little boys I had before I heard the words autism spectrum disorder. So that label doesn’t define them in my eyes. I want to give them the world just like any parent wants for their child. The only problem is I put so much pressure on myself. While I’m trying to make them happy I forget everything else including taking care of myself.

Our special needs journey started 7 years ago when my eldest son was born. He was born premature and had many medical complications including pneumonia, a pneumothorax, an intraventricular hemorrhage and hydrocephalus. He was hospitalized for three months and we almost lost him a few times. I wished I could change places with him and I begged God, that if he had to take a life, to take mine instead of his. It was the hardest time of our lives but it was also the start of the greatest learning experience for us. During that time, nothing mattered other than our son. When you go through the heart wrenching experience of watching your newborn baby fight for his life, your view of the world changes. Things that used to be important just don’t matter anymore. Continue reading

5 Practical Tips for Successful (and Joyful!) Playdates with a Special Needs Child

This is day 27 of 31 Days of Supporting the Special Needs Family. To view the story behind this series and the series contents, please visit the landing page. Today, Katie from Wonderfully Made is guest posting about playdates! 

5 Practical Tips for Successful (and Joyful!) Playdates with a Special Needs Child

#1 Have them!

Neurotypical children and special needs children can learn so much from each other! The world is a big, uncertain place for all little ones, and forming friendships with families of all kinds helps prepare them for it!

#2 Keep them brief

Special needs families have schedules that are mind-boggling. They are constantly on the go, racing from therapy to therapy, appointment to appointment, emergency to emergency. Know that their time is precious. And that while part of them desires normalcy, such as having a playdate, their mind is also racing with a million other things and craves peace. To find a happy medium: stay for an hour, maybe two, and then head out. Realize that even if the child does not seem tired or on the verge of a meltdown to you, they need a break. In my son’s case, even if he does not appear to be on the verge of a meltdown, his exhaustion can hit later in the day and linger sometimes for days after a playdate that went on for too long. Also, sometimes a playdate needs to be cut short. If so, listen to the parents, offer a loving hug and to come back another time. Continue reading

Coping with Family Discord as a Result of your Child with Special Needs

This is day 26 of 31 Days of Supporting the Special Needs Family. To view the story behind this series and the series contents, please visit the landing page. Today, Stacy Warden has written a very practical piece for families who are struggling with extended family relationship because of their special needs child. 

olive branch1

One of the hardest aspects of becoming a parent to a child with special needs is how it greatly affects an existing family dynamic. It has the potential to cause strife, conflict and tension in the closest of families. In many cases this leads to a division in family relationships, hurt feelings, and the dissolution of a support system that is greatly needed.

The underlying reason for family discord can range from unsolicited advice about how you are the root of your child’s disability or reason for their lack of meeting milestones timely, to an unwillingness to make adjustments to a challenging situation like not being able to attend family gatherings because you have a child that has overwhelming sensory difficulties.

In severe cases it can be a difference of values – you refused to give up your child with special needs for adoption or place them in a group home, thereby having a child that causes the family great embarrassment. Or something that is out of your control; your child’s wheelchair doesn’t fit through their doors or would scratch your mother-in-law’s new hardwood floors. Family members may also have difficulty understanding and accepting that often times your life revolves around therapies, appointments, and doctor’s visits and dividing your time as you previously once did, can cause unavoidable distance.

No matter the root of the conflict, the same cooping mechanisms apply for getting through that very strenuous and painful situation. Continue reading

What Is Normal?

This is day 25 of 31 Days of Supporting the Special Needs Family. To view the story behind this series and the series contents, please visit the landing page. Today, Bethany is guest posting for us, asking us the question “What is Normal?” and challenging us not to compare our struggles.

Compared to many families we have things fairly easy. My son, recently diagnosed with PDD, (Pervasive Development Disorder, or high functioning autism) is verbal now – almost nonstop. He’s in a typical kindergarten classroom and thriving there. He’s even making friends! Compared to many special needs families, we are pretty…

Normal.

what is normal Continue reading