Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Autism: Our Journey Thus Far

Some of y’all know, we had Josiah evaluated (almost 2 years ago) through our local school district for a few things, and the results were consistent with autism spectrum disorder. Before and since then, I’ve had mountains of feelings and thoughts about everything, and while I’ve shared with a few, I have mostly kept it inside and the burden has become so much that I feel like I absolutely have to get it off my shoulders in order to not feel so alone and hopefully gain some support in this area.

That being said, what you’re about to read may be long and is probably going to be all over the place so proceed with caution. But please, please proceed especially if you are family or a good friend-- I deeply desire your awareness and encouragement.

It’s hard to even articulate the facts that we’ve been given. I find it difficult to even say, “Josiah’s autistic” or “He has autism” or “diagnosed”. Does that mean I haven’t even accepted it? That I haven’t accepted him as he is? Or that I haven’t accepted that label defining him? And because I never posted about it from the get-go, I have felt like, “oh they don’t know, so I can’t say something random about today’s struggle because they won’t get it and there will be too many questions” but then it just gets more and more and more difficult to share because of the lack of sharing. But I can’t really keep it in anymore, so I’m gonna write a bunch of random thoughts and then maybe I’ll feel more freedom to keep it up afterwards.

Back story: I first suspected something was wrong (Dyslexia? Autism? Sensory? Etc.)  a couple years ago and told my homeschool moms’ group about my concerns. They prayed for me and afterwards, one of the moms who has an autistic son, pulled me aside and basically said, yep, I’ve noticed, I’ve prayed, I’m so glad you said something, he’s autistic. I cried. And after I left, I spent the rest of the day worried that she was right and mad that she would dare diagnose my son. We have become better friends since then and she’s been a great support but at the time we didn’t know each other very well so it was upsetting.

It took me several months to get him tested but we finally did it and got the results in February of 2016. They (the school people) said if you enroll him, here’s what we can offer, if you choose not to, here’s what we can offer. We chose to continue homeschooling and utilize the services that were still available to us, which is speech therapy. Now he has no trouble pronouncing words, but pragmatics is what he works on with the therapist (social communication). 30 minutes biweekly. He’s been going ever since and I think it helps.

I’ve struggled with the thought of whether we should put him in public school but so far there hasn’t been a clear YES to do so. Frankly, while it may help in some ways, I know there would be a whole new set of issues to deal with. Like, ok, these professional people could help him in special education and what-not, I wouldn’t have to deal with him all day, but then what about bullying and public school is SO LONG and he already has a hard enough time with the minimal amount we do here. I wouldn’t say we have “good days and bad days” but that just about every day, we have good, easy, fun, I-know-that-he’s-learning moments, and “It’s too hard, I can’t do it, Why do I have to do this, Why does everybody hate me, I’m just so dumb, I’m hungry I’m tired I’m bored My tummy hurts” moments. I have to remind myself that there are good times ahead, to push through the hard times, reach out to my homeschool mamas for a pep talk and once again things are good.

Great news! Josiah was given a scholarship through the Blue Autism Project organization to go to a social skills camp at The Missing Peace autism therapy center in Keller. It’s 10 weeks long, once a week for an hour and a half. They will be learning about appropriate conversation topics, two way conversations, entering and exiting conversations, appropriate use of humor, choosing friends, etc. I’m so excited for him to get to go and so grateful for the provision and looking forward to seeing improvement in this area! While he HAS friends, I think carrying a conversation where he listens to the other person, stays on topic, and observes their reactions to him speaking, etc, could definitely use improvement. He enjoyed the first day so yay! I almost cried before they started, just sitting in that room, looking around at the other parents and kids that “looked normal” but of course were on the spectrum, and the place had scriptures on the wall and all these positive phrases and just felt like, ok, a place to belong and find hope and support.

He also started karate yesterday and liked it, so I’m hopeful that it will be good for him.

Yesterday was really rough trying to get part of school work done. Anytime he doesn’t want to do something, we have a talk and it turns into this huge ordeal where we discuss the deeper things going on in his heart and mind. Which is good but almost always troubling. Like, I find out he thinks everyone hates him and he thinks I didn’t teach him right and he’s not sure if God even exists, and he thinks I don’t actually care about him or love him even though I say I do. It’s heartbreaking and I’m often left speechless because I just don’t know how to help him. I try to reassure him but I’m left with just feeling like I’m not big enough to reach his heart but I know God is so I pray that God fills in the gaps where I miss it and that He heals his heart and that He gives us wisdom on how to help him with these big big feelings.

It’s hard for me to tell people that he is autistic. I don’t want to use it as an excuse when he has a meltdown in public but at the same time I want people to understand why. But then I think, if I don’t say anything, will they assume it’s a disciplinary/parenting fail? And then I think, who cares what they think? Usually I just address him privately and let “them” think what they will. Some of my friends know, so maybe they understand. Of course I can’t blame every negative behavior on autism.
I’ve wondered if there’s somewhere I went wrong. Like is it because of x, y or z when he was a baby? Or is it because abc happened when he was 2? Or because we moved when he was 4? So many what ifs. Is it diet? He’s super picky. Maybe not as picky as some, but there are just certain things he likes and others he doesn’t and it’s frustrating because I feel like it’s a vicious cycle. Diet affects behavior so we try to change his diet but he won’t eat certain things. And it’s not like other kids where you can just say, well, no dinner for you then. They go to bed hungry and things change. Nope, not here. There’s always a good excuse why he can’t eat whatever it is. It makes his stomach hurt. It’s too spicy. It’s hard to argue with that. So while I can cut out what I know is bad, that leaves us with a very limited array of choices. So I’m just hoping this will improve to help him improve in different areas.

Is it video games? Do I ban them completely? Do I make certain rules? Been there, tried that.

We recently watched the whole first season of this new show on Netflix called Atypical. It’s about this 18yo boy on the autism spectrum, his family and struggles as he starts to date. While I wish the show could’ve left out a lot of raunchy language and sexual discovery outside the covenant of marriage, the series definitely had its merits. You see his quirks and struggles and strengths and I just had so many Awww moments! We laughed a lot, and it made me feel like, OK, this is one example that I can relate a lot to. Almost like, yeah, if this is what autism (sometimes) looks like, then yes, Josiah is for sure autistic. I don’t really like the label, but it made me feel almost at home, like ok, he’s not alone, we’re not alone, we just need to find our tribe of people who get it. Who accept him and can help us accept our reality and do the best we can to help Josiah reach his full potential.

When I do tell people that his evaluation was consistent with ASD, I sometimes get questions, like what does that mean, what is autism, etc. I find myself at a bit of a loss. Like I just want to say Google it, that’s what I did. It means different things for different kids. Apparently they don’t use the term Aspergers anymore, but instead “high-functioning autism” as in, maybe you wouldn’t realize someone is autistic at first because they’re verbal, and otherwise “normal”. For us it means, sometimes things have to be a certain way. The picky eating thing. The very easily upset thing that turns into yelling and hitting himself or pulling his hair and can’t calm him down thing. The not responding when someone talks to him even though his hearing, pronunciation and vocabulary are just fine for his age, so he appears rude and I constantly have to remind him to respond to them, but sometimes that means no eye contact and you can barely hear his words. The frustration with if he can’t do it perfectly he doesn’t want to do it, and it’s not ok to make a mistake. The obsession with Legos. The only wanting to wear gym shorts and a T-shirt and crocs or flip-flops. The talking your ear off about Minecraft even though I don’t let him play very often. The not saying “I love you” back and not wanting to hug but then wanting to snuggle just at bedtime. The blurting out something totally unrelated to the conversation. The genius way he figures stuff out that I couldn’t even do. The creativity when he builds or makes up a story or game. And a hundred other things that just make him who he is, but when you put them all together, some people say, that equals ASD. To which I can’t figure out which to say: 1. Thank you! Or 2. Um, no, that’s just his individual personality and quirks and some behavior issues we need to address just like so many other kids. Gah.

I have days where I feel good and hopeful and notice his awesomeness and we get along and have fun and I have days where I break down in tears because I just don’t know how to help him through a rough time and wonder if he would’ve turned out differently if he had a different mom.

Last night we started watching another show “Parenthood”. I saw it on the menu and remembered people on FB raving about it when it was on the air and thought, ok I’ll give it a shot even though I know nothing about it. Well, shoot. The first episode and this kid Max is probably autistic. Didn’t know that was gonna be a theme. It’s like I can’t get away from it, haha! I’m hoping this will be a good show.

Ok, I think I’m gonna stop for now (this was actually written in two parts, a couple weeks ago and today) but plan to write more as time permits and I feel the need to share.

Please feel free to ask questions but know that I don’t have all the answers and I just really need support. To all our family and friends who know and spend time with Josiah, I hope that this information will serve to help you know a bit better how to relate to him and you can explain to your kids whatever you feel is appropriate and beneficial for their relationship with him. I love you and am so thankful for your love for our family.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Thoughts on Vaccines

Fear, Anger, Hope, Relief, Confidence, Confusion, Stubbornness, Ignorance, Obligation, Responsibility… all feelings or states of mind that I have seen all over our society in regards to this hot topic. Some of you know where I stand, and the rest of you, will at least a little bit more if you take the time to read all of this. I apologize in advance if my observations, thoughts and feelings are all over the place in the coming paragraphs. I’m not a professional writer or scientist, but I do care an awful lot about my kids and others, which is why I haven’t been able to get these things off my mind, especially in the last few weeks.

To tell the truth, I have some hesitation in opening my heart and mind on the issue because it’s SO controversial and I know that some of you are very passionate about your beliefs and I don’t want it to hurt our friendship. Hopefully it’s strong enough to handle some disagreement and we can both acknowledge that the other is genuinely trying to make the right decision for their children.

I’ve read a lot of articles online, on BOTH sides of the issue. I’ve heard the pleas and the fears and the name-calling and the threats and the stories and the studies and the assumptions and I know that it all comes from two paradoxical roots: LOVE and FEAR.

We love our kids so much. We want the best for them. We want them healthy. We want to make all the right decisions, and sometimes we don’t know who to trust. We want them to live life to the fullest. But we’re afraid. Afraid of what might happen to them if we do or don’t give them the shot(s). Afraid of what people might think if we ask questions or change our stance. What if I don’t get them vaccinated and they get the measles or polio or whooping cough? What if I vaccinate them and they start showing signs of autism or the disease that the shot is supposed to prevent? What if my kid gets sick because of someone else who deliberately skipped the shot? What if my kid gets a baby sick and he/she dies?

I beg of you to let your decision be motivated by love and not fear. And it doesn’t have to be cookie-cutter. You might decide to get one shot but not another. You might decide to have them for one child but not the other. You might decide to spread them out and only get them when they are perfectly healthy. I may disagree with your choice but I believe you have the right to choose, and I will respect that right as long as you have done your homework. Not blindly following the advice of a doctor or a celebrity or relative or friend.

It can be hard to sift through all the statistics that don’t match up, because many reports are slanted. The adamant cries of “There is no link” and “It’s obvious there’s a link” never end. What shall we do then?

I’m going to be honest and share some of our history with vaccines from as far back as I can remember. I showed up to junior high and couldn’t get registered because I hadn’t had a certain shot. Looking back now, I realize at least partly why I hadn’t had it, because I skipped kindergarten so I was a year younger than everyone and the recommendation for whatever vaccination it was, was age 12 and I was 11. But I had to go get the shot and come back.

Fast forward to my first pregnancy. So many choices to be made and things to learn about parenting but I didn’t have a ton of spare time to research what with working full-time, moving twice, planning a wedding and going into labor early. So I just pretty much listened to whatever advice came my way, aside from the things that I already felt strongly about, like breastfeeding. I don’t remember researching vaccines at all.

We fell in love with our pediatrician. She was caring and intelligent and respectful. We got every shot they offered from the very beginning, without fear of side effects. I trusted her because in my eyes she was the expert and wouldn’t recommend anything harmful. Honestly, I was also very sleep-deprived so I was too lazy to do my own research, despite one or two friends raising questions and encouraging us to think twice. To sum up, my attitude was, “I’m sure my doctor knows best and I don’t feel like finding out otherwise. Just do what she says.” I remember Julia running a fever and sleeping more the day after each round of shots, but luckily nothing worse. Riley was still a bit more skeptical, so I agreed to split up Julia’s 12-month shots into two visits, and put off any further ones until we thought about it more and were sure it was the right decision. At that 1-year checkup (or maybe it was at the 18 month one, I don’t remember exactly), the doctor assured me that Julia showed no signs of autism, and at least one of the shots was a booster so we would’ve known already if she would have a bad reaction to it. She was agreeable for the most part but encouraged us to at least get the DTaP because a lot of children were getting whooping cough.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment where we realized/decided we weren’t going to do them anymore, I guess it was gradual. Do I think every single vaccination available is evil and would I absolutely under no circumstances ever consent to receiving a single one? No.

Everyone who chooses not to vaccinate has a unique combination of reasons for refusing them. Contrary to popular belief, most parents aren’t ditching the shots because of Jenny McCarthy or Andrew Wakefield, so let’s just stop throwing that around. Here are a few of ours:

1.      God designed our children with an immune system. He didn’t mess up, and I’m going to trust that it will do its job if we give it the right tools (sleep, water, eating the right foods and using natural medicine when needed). To me, it feels a little bit like the Tower of Babel to go trying to create artificial immunity.

2.     The original strains of many vaccines were cultured in the cell lines of electively aborted human babies. These are still available for purchase online, which I find appalling. It just doesn’t sit right with me…ethically, spiritually, physically. Some people think well, what’s done is done, and now some good can come of it, the sacrifice of one baby is worth saving the lives of people who would otherwise die of a vaccine-preventable disease, but I disagree. “By His stripes we were healed.” I could be wrong, but it feels a little insulting to think that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough and we need some additional shedding of innocent blood to rid our world of sickness. For you vegans out there, you might be interested to know that they also use embryos of animals. [Note: I did not say the shots your kids are getting contain actual cells from aborted babies. This is a common misconception among some non-vaccinating parents. So don’t go misquoting me].

3.    The side effects of many vaccines are about the same as or worse than the disease itself. You can find this information in the package insert, but sadly most parents don’t bother, and I worry that many pediatricians don’t either. I know for a fact that there are doctors who just prescribe whatever is promoted by the rep who brought lunch that day, without any further research. I know all doctors are not equal, and most have good intentions and a sincere desire to “do no harm” and help people. But they’re not perfect, and it’s our responsibility to do our part and not just leave our children’s health and parenting decisions completely in their hands.

4.    This isn’t the biggest reason for me, because our family probably consumes these in some of the foods we eat so I don’t want to be a hypocrite, but just for your information, I will list some of the ingredients commonly found in vaccines: Mercury…although this has been somewhat eliminated, even some “thimerosal-free” vaccines still have a trace amount. Aluminum, linked to Alzheimers. Antibiotics, which destroy the good bacteria thereby hindering natural immunity. Formaldehyde. MSG, a neurotoxin.

5.     The immunity that MIGHT come from a vaccine is inferior to the natural immunity that comes from getting the real thing, or better yet, as babies from the breastmilk of a mother who has developed immunity after having the disease. I had chickenpox when I was about 2 years old (with scars to prove it), and I’m fine. My grandma had the mumps as a child and lived to be 84. Are those reasons enough to refuse all vaccinations? Of course not. Neither is seeing a picture of someone who died of Tetanus cause for us all running out and getting “caught up” on our shots.

Now let’s talk about just a couple of the reasons TO vaccinate. I will use italics because I’m not convinced these are true or factual.

Vaccines have eradicated many diseases, so we should keep using them. If you read enough, you will find research that concludes that these diseases were already well on the decline before vaccines were introduced, due to improved sanitation and what-not. This argument will probably never end so you decide which you believe.

People die from vaccine-preventable diseases. It’s irresponsible to refuse the shot. Let’s talk statistics straight from the CDC. According to their website, before the measles vaccine was introduced, approximately 1 in 10,000 people who got the disease, died from it. Now let’s take a look at vehicle related deaths: 1 in 1,000. So, make sure to buckle up, don’t run red lights and stay under the speed limit on your way to that play date with an unvaccinated child. Now correct me if my calculator is dysfunctional, but it looks to me like your child is 10x more likely to die on the way than he/she is from measles, and that’s assuming the child has it and spreads it to yours. Anybody up for mandatory banning of motor vehicles? *crickets*

Herd immunity. First of all, that term lends itself to treating people like cattle. But Oh Boy. This is a doozy and I’m a little scared to attack it because I haven’t spent my adult years developing a thesis on epidemiology. But I will just counter with this fact: Vaccinated children can shed the virus they have been injected with, and infect other vaccinated or un-vaccinated children. So you can be mad at me because my child may get the disease from someone else, and then infect your child who is too young to get the shot, and/or I can be mad at you for infecting my child with your child’s shedding virus. Or, I have a better idea. You can do your best to beef up your child’s immune system, and I’ll do my best too, and we’ll stay away from each other if a fever pops up.

But here’s the deal: the world we live in is broken, and only in heaven will sickness be gone for good. “But, Joanna, you haven’t seen a patient dying of measles or whooping cough, because they were unable to be vaccinated and some anti-vaxxer got this kid sick.” You’re right, I haven’t. Does that mean we should all go get vaccinated? Hmmm. What about all those OTHER patients the media likes to ignore? You know, the ones that have been injured, sometimes fatally, by a vaccine. Those are someone's children, too. What if there’s a better solution but it’s not so simple because not everybody will ever cooperate? What if there is NO solution because disease will always be here and we need to just do the best we can? I want to be sensitive to those who have watched their own children or patients suffer or die from an illness, so I hesitate to harp too much on this. Please forgive me if I’ve offended you. 

There will always be those that claim, “Vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective” and those that assert, “Vaccines are not as safe and effective as they say they are.” Some people back this up with conviction and years of study, while others just say it because they’ve heard it said enough times. I beg of you, whichever side you’re on, to keep asking, and seeking, and knocking, even if you KNOW you’re right. Try to see the other point of view, because you might see the light and change your mind, and/or become even more convinced in your position and then be able to confidently share that truth with others. So if you’re going to be staunch on one side, at least be able to say, “I’ve looked at the reasons to vaccinate (or not) and this is what I believe is the best for my child.”

Now listen, I’m all for caring about the health of other people’s children. It’s no secret that I care more about my children’s than yours, and I’m sure you feel the same way. But this whole notion that I should have to put my child at risk in order to save your child from risk just doesn’t add up to me. Again (and forgive the gravity of this scenario), the odds are much greater that I will fatally injure your child in a car crash than my child infecting your child with a vaccine-preventable disease. Why isn’t anyone calling me names and threatening to throw me in jail, for daring to drive anywhere? We all take risks, every day. Each parent decides what is worth the risk and what isn’t, and what they’re willing to do to protect their kids, and other people’s kids. Got a peanut allergy? You won’t find me serving PBJs to my kid on our play date. Going through the most fragile steps of alcoholism recovery? I’m not going to break out the booze when you come over. But I will not stand by and let someone put a virus in my child’s body in order to (arguably) decrease the odds of some other child catching it.

One day you’ll read an article about a toddler that showed signs of autism the day after getting vaccinated. The next day you’ll read an article about a baby that died of whooping cough because he was too young for the vaccine and the parent of whoever he got it from didn’t want to vaccinate for whatever reason (I can assure you it’s not because they didn’t care about your child, it’s because they care about THEIR child). There will probably always be fear-mongering on both sides. But one thing that bugs me is the hatred and anger and name-calling between parents on opposite sides of the fence. I get it, we disagree. Figure out what you think is the best choice for YOUR CHILD (that’s the one you’ve been entrusted with, this isn’t communism), and then leave it in God’s hands. Hope that he or she won’t die of the disease they were or weren’t vaccinated for. But don’t try to get others to do it your way by sending fear or guilt into their hearts. If you want to motivate someone to change their mind, the best way to do it is (with kindness) to present them with unbiased, double-blind studies, un-slanted statistics, convincing them that the shots (or lack of) will be of greater benefit than risk to THEIR child, not others. By the way, you CAN send your child to public school without “mandatory” vaccinations. Or you can just home-school. But I digress. =)

I guess I’m not really here to try to talk you out of vaccinations. Is that because I’m afraid you’ll skip them, get sick and blame me? No. Is it because I don’t have the tiniest clue what I’m talking about? No. I just felt like I needed to get these thoughts off my chest and share with y’all.

*Please feel free to comment with your {civil} opinions and questions. If things get nasty, I may have to take this post down. Love to you all.

Friday, June 28, 2013

This and that

I feel like I should blog more instead of all my thoughts just getting out through facebook status updates. Oh well, here I am.

Just a few things going through my mind and heart lately, all here in this post because I know better than to think I'll write an individual post all about each one.

* I am super duper happy about the small group of moms that has formed within our church. We have a facebook page to communicate about get-togethers, personal thoughts, etc. Play dates and meeting in one of the moms' home for fellowship, bible discussion and prayer has been a real blessing. As primary caretakers of little ones it's all too easy to get secluded and drown in motherhood, so it's incredibly important to build friendships with eachother. I'm hoping to connect with an older mom in a mentor-like relationship in the near future!

* Finishing kindergarten with Julia was hanging over my head so I decided to cut the stuff that wasn't working well for us and just plow through the rest so we could be officially done before the end of spring. Success! Of course, counterintuitive as it may seem, I already picked out and ordered some of her first grade curriculum for the fall. I'm looking forward to it and hope that she will continue to soar as she has been doing thus far. Although, I'm reminded once again of the truth that it's more important to sow seeds of God's word into her than academic education. Lord, help me prioritize this in my time with her! And Josiah, of course... Which leads me to the fact that sometimes I feel like he takes the back burner... like I'm just running along with her to help her grow and he just follows and copies and doesn't get as much personal attention as she does. That's so not how I want it to be! Lord help me focus on him more and meet his needs and teach him with the intensity that I give to his sister.

* I am really proud of the Summer Passport I made and gave to Julia as a kinder-grad present. The idea was inspired by something I saw on Pinterest, and it turned out to be even better than I set out for. It's super cute and Riley spiral-bound it and everything. It has pages of Places to Go, Places to Eat, Play Dates, and Fun at Home. With all kinds of fun stuff to check off. We've already done A LOT of it and it's only been 2 weeks. I will insist on at least a month break from school but we may be starting back early! Or not. We'll see. Life is learning, learning through life is joyful.

* I thought once I got down to one book, I would blaze right through it, but no, the real me is still here. I get all excited about a new book, dive into it, then plateau and ever-so-rarely pick it up to read the last 3/4 of it. And it's not because I pick boring or hard-to-read books, it's just me. I don't know if it's because I don't think I can get through a whole chapter or really focus on the topic, or what... but I wish I could just read all the books I see that look interesting, fast, learn and apply immediately, and onto the next one in a heartbeat. But no. Hmph.

* Josiah is crazy about playing with daddy, airplanes, helicopters, balls and sticks. Julia is crazy about reading. Reading, reading and reading. And I have zero complaints about any of that. What I really wish though is for them to love Jesus with all their heart. I want them to be what I want to be, what I have yet to achieve and what I sometimes doubt I ever will. Hmmm.

* The Lord has really been tugging on my heart lately, which is so good, but honestly, I haven't been responding like I should, wish I had the desire to, part of me wants to, and I know he holds out the strength for me to choose him over all other distractions, so I'm not quite sure what keeps me from running to His presence every moment that he invites me!

* Ok I guess I do know. Satan wants to sabotage my relationship with Christ. Duh. How can I sit by and let him have his way?! That's it, I'm publishing, closing the laptop and going to have some time with the Lover of my soul.

Monday, June 3, 2013

My baby girl is SIX!

We've been in California over a year now and this is the first blog post I've written. Hmm....

It's crazy that my little sweetheart, Julia Brynne, is turning six. SIX. SIX!!! I became a mom the day she was born and it has been quite a ride the last 6 years. We've had ups and downs, and being a mom has been harder than I ever imagined, but just as fulfilling as I always hoped it would be. But enough about me! 

This girl. This girl, I don't even understand how she can be so smart. She is constantly making our eyebrows raise and our chins drop. The way she discovers things and invents and creates and figures things out is absolutely astounding. The last time I checked, her reading and spelling level was that of a 4th grader or something. Woah. And her heart... oh how she LOVES to serve. Like, almost to a fault. I'm trying not to squash that in her... but sometimes she just wants EVERYONE (not just in our family, like if we're at a huge event) to have something to eat or drink, and wants to keep holding the door open well after the rest of us have already walked through, just in case someone else comes along.

And I can't forget to mention how affectionate and loving she is! I've lost count of how many precious "I love you Mommy" decorated notes she has written and given to me or hidden for me to find. She randomly comes over, gives me a hug and tells me in the sweetest, most sincere voice, "I love you Mommy"... and I know she means it, despite all my parenting failures. Julia is also INCREDIBLY curious! I am 100% sure she got that from me. People say she looks just like me, to which I always respond (either in my head or out loud), "Yep, a younger, cuter version of me". Personally I take it as a compliment because she is absolutely beautiful! I tell her that often, but I also hope she learns the value of inner beauty... gentleness, kindness, patience, humility, wisdom, bravery...

She's growing up so fast! They were right. There have been, and are still, days and weeks that seem so long but looking back the years have flown by. I almost feel guilty that I can't remember everything about her lifetime thus far! Maybe it was the sleep deprivation that blocked out some of those early memories ;) 

So right now, her favorite things to do are-- dance, sing, play games on the iPad, play with friends, swim, cook, go shopping, climb trees and READ. Her favorite TV shows are Curious George and Berenstain Bears, and her favorite songs are Ave Maria, I Would Walk 500 Miles, Jukebox Blues, Angel Eyes, Time Is A Flooded River, One Thing Remains, Happy Day.

The best part about the past year has been how her heart for God has blossomed. She's asked SO many questions about Jesus, heaven, being a Christian, etc. There were a lot of homeschool lessons at the beginning of this year that included salvation topics and I could see the wheels turning in her spirit, but didn't want to push her into saying a shallow prayer so I just waited patiently for her to make the first step. Well, on March 23rd, the Sunday a week before Easter, her teacher at church told me that during class she had raised her hand to accept Jesus in her heart. I had a lot of questions and wished that I had been there but regardless, it was the best news ever! She's still pretty shy about praying, at least in front of us, but I know that Jesus has her heart in his hands and will continue to draw her to himself and I look forward to seeing their relationship grow. The thing I want most for her is to know Jesus intimately and to walk with Him her whole life.

This little lady is a great buddy, too. I love taking her on dates and so does Riley. She's so much fun and has a great sense of humor. Her laughter is so pure and silly. She loves ice cream and just about any opportunity she has to pick where she wants to go you'll hear her say "Tutti Frutti!" (just like Josiah would-- it's our local frozen yogurt shop). It's been pretty nice getting free dessert the last couple times we've gone out to eat because of her upcoming birthday.

Julia still hasn't had her hair cut, but she does have a loose tooth! Well, two but the first one is really wiggly. Seeing that milestone come to pass will definitely be a dose of reality in how much she's growing up! We are finishing up her first official year of homeschool this month and will be moving up to first grade in the fall. Woohoo! She has been a great kindergarten student and makes my job pretty easy. Watching her handwriting improve, as well as her math skills, memorizing bible verses and learning science and history, has been so awesome. She got to go with Josiah, Lolly and Poppy to Disneyland for the first time ever in April and had a blast! I'm so thrilled that they get to live in a place of so much natural beauty. They see mountains (or at least really big hills) every day and we get to the beach every now and then too. Another highlight of her 6th year was being a flower girl in my dear friend Amanda's wedding last summer. Instead of petals, she got to scatter glitter down the aisle... how fun is that?!

The next couple weeks bring some promotion for her, too. Our church moves the kids up to their next grade class in mid-June, so she'll be moving out of the 4-5 year old class into the 1st-2nd grade class. AAHHHH!!! Also, she and Josiah take gymnastics and turning 6 will bring her out of the kinder class into the girls only 6-8 year old class. She is super excited about both of these changes!

Her friendship with Josiah has been fun to watch this year as well. Of course sometimes they scream and fight and hurt each other and refuse to share and what not, but seeing them help each other and entertain each other and work together to accomplish a goal and invite the other one to go to another room or outside to play because they have an idea and want a playmate, is so cute and totally warms my heart! I'm glad they are buddies and I hope they will always have a good relationship.

I'm so excited to give her her birthday presents! Especially her first full-length Bible! I look forward to watching her soak up God's Word =) She has requested donuts and orange juice for breakfast, hot dogs for lunch, swimming in the afternoon and burgers for dinner. As you wish, princess!

Here's a very quick trip down memory lane:
7 weeks old, first smile
2 years old
4 years old
about a month ago =)

So without further ado, HAPPY BIRTHDAY JULIA!!! You are such a blessing to our family and you bring a smile to our faces every single day. We love you so much and hope this year of being six is the best year you've ever had!

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Heartshaping Mother

---This post was a draft from February of 2012... yes, I haven't written in like a year and a half. I'd like to change that soon, blah blah blah, no promises. Figured I'd just go ahead and publish this even though it's oooold. I also attended this again in Irvine and it was just as great... but I gave my notes away so... you get last year's manna. But don't worry, it's not stinky. It's all good stuff!---

I went to the Mom Heart Conference this past weekend and it was so encouraging! This was my second year to attend and I'm so glad I did. This should definitely be a permanent event on my yearly calendar. Except next year I think I'll stay the night at the hotel. =)

Last year I blogged all my notes, and now I'm here to do the same! I hope something here will inspire you, refresh you, challenge you, and give you the joy and grace to carry on strong and passionate in your walk as a mom!

(Forgive me for any inconsistency in thought, as some of these are random, while some go along with certain themes that were spoken about in the sessions. Some are tips, some are reminders, some are words of encouragement. I'm just going straight through my notes from start to finish, not in order of importance).

The theme this year was "The Heartshaping Mother"... how to open, fill and hold your child's heart.

* Find an older woman who makes you want to love God more, and let her mentor you.

* Your children WILL mimic you-- Be, say, do what you want to see in them.

* When you feel like you lack support, make sure your hope isn't misplaced away from God-- HE is your help.

* Motherhood isn't just a sacrifice, it's a GIFT-- it's "the good works He has prepared in advance for you to do." Look at an "inconvenience" and see it as an opportunity. Embrace it!

* Entrust older children with authority to help with younger siblings.

*When they ask "Why?" say "Ill give you two guesses -- They guess right and you praise them.

* If you don't enjoy the moment while it's there, it's gone.

* They are not out to get me. They get hungry, tired, forgetful... but they DO want to please me.

* God is not finished yet! With me OR with them.

* Psalm 121:1 "Where does my help come from? The Lord, the maker of heaven and earth."

* It's never gonna get easy, but it's worth it and your capacity is greater than you think.

* Your children are your ministry. Serve as unto the Lord.

* Motherhood is the most powerful thing you can do.

* You are a supermodel! A rockstar! Kind of a big deal =)

* You have to be in God's Word, know it and share it with your kids- they WILL remember the verses you speak!

* Method for studying the Bible: SOAP- write Scripture down, Observation, Application, Prayer

* Satan lies to us when we are along-- have friends around you to encourage you and tell you the truth!

* Every morning we have to gather "manna" to nourish our souls and it will be exactly what we need for that day.

* Just as dads who are teaching their kids to ride a bike want them to get back on when they fall, and don't expect them to be perfect cyclists from the get-go, God feels the same way about us as mommies.

* Teach your kids how to write their testimony, and urge them to tell their friends.

* Teach them to read their Bible for themselves.

* Disciple them-- so they can do it on their own.

* Encourage them to serve and be exposed to pain in others' lives.

* TARGET: to walk intimately with God. Decide 1) When to have time with Him. 2) Where 3) Why 4) What you will read/study and 5) How (read, write, SOAP, mark, memorize, meditate)

* The iPod, iPad, iPhone may pacify, but only the I AM can satisfy

* Are you pacified or satisfied? Pacify = soothe agitation. Satisfy  = meet all requirements, fulfill all needs. What would happen if all we gave our babies was a paci and never fed them? Same with our spirit and soul.

* If you're not great, it's not because God didn't give you the opportunity; it's because the world gave you the opportunity to compromise and you took it.

* Do you want to build a condo or an estate? It takes years to build a legacy.

* God's goal is our heart, so our goal should be our children's hearts.

* Our goal is not morality, for them to mimic spirituality, to fill a bucket, but to LIGHT A FIRE!

* No one can live your life with integrity but YOU.

* Where are your kids going to learn unconditional love if not from you?

* I am a steward of my kids brains! "Love the Lord with all your mind."

* What do we want our kids to say about who we were as a Christian mom? We have to live that way NOW.

* God delights in using normal people to change the world, if they will just engage their hearts to be faithful!

* The wise woman builds her house (Prov 14:1)-- she has a plan! If you don't have one, someone else will give you one.

* She raises them in the Lord (Eph 6:4)-- You can't win the heart of your child if you're a Pharisee! They don't need to be indoctrinated. Don't live by rules, live by love!

* Lead them to show others God's love, to reap God's harvest. You can't live a radical life from inside a box.

* If we just don't know what do, we will follow the wrong people.

* Are you an adversary (in your face parenting) or an advocate (in your heart parenting)? Adversary is enemy based; advocate says, "I'm for you, I'm with you, and I believe in you."

* What is a heartshaping mother? She shapes with relationship that opens her child's heart with grace. She shapes with influence that fills her child's heart with truth. She shapes with culture that holds her child's heart with love.

* Our biblical model Jesus-- Our job isn't just teaching them all the facts they need to know, but to LOVE.

* A heartshaping mother's heart is shaped by God's Word-- every heart has two beats: intake and outflow. Deut 6:6-7 You cannot teach diligently to your child's heart what is not already in your own heart.

* The goal of a heartshaping mother is 1 Tim 1:5  "The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."

* Winning the battle is never easy, but it IS possible!

What makes this mommy-me-time-away different from other conferences or retreats is that instead of feeling like you don't want it to end, you spend the last session tapping your foot eager to get home and love on your kids with your fresh revelation, while simultaneously soaking up every last bit! I highly recommend you check out Whole Heart Ministry and plan to attend next year... Sally Clarkson is full of so much wisdom and grace, and I was very blessed to listen to her speak about the gift of motherhood. =)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

GAPS and our family

Since embarking on this adventure, many of you have asked me about the GAPS diet so I thought I'd just write a not so little blog post about it.

Basically, GAPS is about rest and healing for the gut, and slowly introducing fermented foods to refill it with good bacteria. Bone broth is very important in this process. The gist is, when you heal the gut lining, issues such as irritable bowel, reflux, ADD, autism, food allergies, and a host of other problems, can be eliminated. For some people it can happen quickly, for others it can take years. Most people are on this diet for 6 months-2 years before reintroducing foods not allowed on the GAPS menu. A sick digestive system decreases immunity and causes psychological disorders, hence the acronym for “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” People are starting to find out that there is a big connection—a lot of times when a kid has autism, he/she also has some kind of digestive/intestinal problem. It makes sense because Riley has struggled with ADD, reflux and other tummy troubles for several years, in addition to being overweight.

As far as what’s allowed and not allowed…

There is a long list of “avoid” and “recommended” but for the most part, no grains, sugar, starch or lactose. These are not easily digested and can cause all kinds of problems. Yogurt and some cheeses and a couple different legumes are allowed. Mostly we eat meats, fruits and vegetables, nuts, eggs, animal fats and lacto-fermented foods. Soups, stews and chilis are a frequent occurrence (which is perfect for this time of year!) Anything bread-like is made with coconut flour or almond flour, and local raw honey (which is great for seasonal allergies, another nuisance of ours) is used instead of sugar.

I first learned about GAPS when my friend Heather and her family went on it, mostly for her husband’s sake, but she and her daughter (and now her son) joined with him and now they are in better health than ever. She has done a ton of research and through personal experience become quite the expert on nutrition. Her blog has a wealth of information about real food, among other topics such as parenting. When I read her posts, it all made so much sense to me and I felt like I was discovering the cure for many of Riley’s ails. I knew it was what he needed, bought the book and skimmed through; it just took us a long time to finally take the plunge. Here are links to a couple of her posts about GAPS (instead of just copy-and-pasting everything she says):

A lot of people ask why I am dieting since I don’t need to lose weight. I’m not going to lose weight because I don’t have it to lose. Riley will because he has it to lose, even while eating the same things as I am. Plenty of high calorie foods and staying away from grains and sugar has left me feeling great and with smoother digestion. It has taken a big commitment on my part to cook almost all our meals from scratch, but it’s worth it. We are already seeing benefits after only 2 weeks. Riley has lost 10lbs without exercise or pills or counting calories, Josiah is eating vegetables which he would never touch before, Julia’s behavior has improved (not that it was terrible before, she is just incredibly more pleasant and agreeable), and doing this together has strengthened our bond as a family. I’ve felt the urge to start this diet for several months now but was too scared. What I think pushed me over the edge (besides the fact that Riley got desperate for change) was the revelation that we are one flesh, my body is his and his mine, which led to the conviction that it didn’t matter that I could eat whatever I wanted w/o gaining weight or having apparent health issues… he needed my support. And if him getting better meant I had to give up some of my favorite foods, well, it’s as if I had to do it for myself, and that was a commitment that I needed to make as an act of love.

So why would want to remove grains? After all, they’re cheap and yummy and filling! The simplest answer is there is nothing you can get from grains that you can’t find in a more easily digestible form somewhere else. There is so much sugar and grain and additives in practically everything that comes in a bag or box or restaurant these days, it’s ridiculous. Which on one hand, makes it harder to only eat what we are allowed, but on the other side it’s so simple. Removing everything GAPS-illegal from my kitchen has simplified things a lot. It has taken some new creativity and different ways of doing things, but we are getting used to it. Life-changing in difficult yet rewarding ways!

Right now we are doing the full GAPS menu, and the tentative plan is to do “Intro” starting in January (more intensive stage of GAPS, starting with just broth and meat and veggies, slowly introducing eggs, cultured dairy, nuts, fruits, etc. when they are well tolerated). We expect to be on the diet for at least 6 months, possibly 2 years or longer.

I’ve found most of my new recipes from Heather’s website and, although searching “grain-free recipes” on Google will produce even more. Many of the meals we ate before the diet are still allowed; some have just required a little tweaking of the ingredients.

Feel free to ask any other questions you may have!