Simple As A Visual Aid

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The first few weeks of Kindergarten were going great. Then one day Preston came home looking defeated. I always ask him to tell me the best and worst parts of his day. When I asked him what the worst part of his day was he said, “I never clip up.” In Kindergarten, there is this fancy rainbow behavioral chart. Each child gets a clothespin with their name on it. Each day they start their clip out in the middle on Green for “Ready To Learn.” They can clip up the chart to “Outstanding” or down the chart to “Time Away – Call to Parents.” It’s an awesome system because it helps kids learn to self-regulate as they clip up and down.

However, for a kid like Preston, the ways of clipping up can be sort of vague. There are a lot of social cues that he needs to be taught academically. He doesn’t really pick up on the fact that Billy clipped up for sitting still at circle time, so if I refrain from being a human bottle rocket at circle time, I will clip up too. He mostly gets mad that Billy clipped up and he didn’t. If I’m honest, I can relate to that.

When I figured out what was happening, I suggested to Preston’s teacher that she put together a visual aid, a cheat sheet to remind Preston of what he can do to clip up. Once he had his sheet, Preston completely understood what he had to do. Since then, he has clipped up every day. When the other kids ask why he has that card with him in class he simply replies, “It helps me.”

Sometimes I wish I had a card like that. I can relate to Preston’s discouragement. I can also relate to his anger. Lately I feel like I am having trouble “clipping up” so to speak, in life. I am stuck here all ready to learn and grow as a wife and mom but find many days where I feel myself loosing it under all the demands and falling down the mama performance chart. This whole parenting thing can be kind of vague. In fact, it can get down right messy. Dare I say ugly?  And what is hard is that even my best parenting moments often yield a raging, “UGH! You stupid stupid mom! You hate me and I hate you for hating me!” from my Preston. He doesn’t mean it. He’s just mad. I get it. But it gets to me. I find myself falling apart a little too often and wishing I had my own cheat sheet. Do this, clip up. Do this, clip down. I know life doesn’t work that way. It’s not as simple as a visual aid. We all find ourselves in situations where we find ourselves shouting, “A little help here?” (One of Preston’s favorite lines).

Don’t get me wrong. We are blessed with tons of support. I have gained many tools as I’ve researched and worked with other children on the autism spectrum. I sure hope to gain many more. Even though I feel defeated in this season, I won’t give up. I’m thankful and have much to celebrate. Even so, I admit my heart still aches to “be like the other kids.” Lord, help me embrace the life you’ve given me. 

Maybe you’ve been stuck in places before. Maybe you’re stuck now. I think we all have moments where we know what’s expected of us but we feel unclear on how or when we’ll get there.

Just like I saw my lost little son and knew he needed a little direction, I’m counting on the fact that God knows where I am and knows just what I need to put me back on track. Hopefully, with some lessons learned and some wisdom gained from this season of stuck. And if anyone asks why I’m relying so much on this hope I’ll simply reply, “It helps me.”

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Quality Nourishment

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Many summer mornings, I have wandered out to this dock at our family’s cabin. I throw on some boots and a blanket and head out to this well-loved chair with my Dad’s famous perked coffee in hand, still much too hot to drink. I sit and take in the beauty, the quiet, the aroma of pine trees and coffee. Some mornings the sun shines bright and glitters on the surface of the water. Other mornings the sun is masked by the mist rising off the lake. It doesn’t matter whether I spend a few short moments or an hour or so. I always feel satisfied after being in this place. Maybe because this place combines all the things that nourish me: Being outside, the beauty of the woods and untouched natural spaces, time to connect with God, time to process life, coffee. It’s a place to let quality things rise up in my life.

I have been trying to take small steps toward becoming a more nourished mama. Today is my one morning to myself and so I decided I would use this time to add in some things that nourish me. I dropped my sons off and headed out for a run along the bike path this morning. The rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement soothes my scattered thoughts and the fresh air in my lungs gives me freedom to breathe deep and let go of some of that tension I tend to carry in my shoulders! As I ran this morning I thought about this concept of quality.

I learned this over the past few years through our family’s switch to a gluten free/dairy free lifestyle. I call it a lifestyle switch because it really was a change in the way we do life and food. Our family made the change together to see if it would help with some of Preston’s behavioral struggles. We had heard that cutting out gluten and casein can help some children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. We started cutting things out. Honestly, we felt deprived at the beginning. But we soon came to realize we were approaching our dietary changes from a deprived mindset. We were choosing to look at what we couldn’t have, rather than what we could, missing all that was available to us.

About that time, my husband’s aunt, who struggles with Celiac disease, came to our rescue and mentored us in nutrition and all things gluten free. She helped us to look at food in terms of what we were gaining in nutrition, healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, probiotics. For a kid like Preston, who’s medical issues make it hard for him to absorb nutrients and healthy fats, it’s important to make the most of each meal and feed him what will nourish him most. I have learned to think of food in terms of what is beneficial rather then what foods I have to keep from him. It’s not so much about cutting things out as it is about adding quality things in. This has changed everything. Bit by bit, as we added in things that nourished our bodies, we began to find ourselves craving those more healthy options and the less healthy things sort of lost their appeal and vanished from our diet. Our lifestyle changed completely.

As I ran this morning, I thought about how I can apply this concept of quality to other areas of my life. Where can I add in quality moments that nourish my mind, body, and soul? For too long, I’ve been trying to fill up other people’s glasses from my own broken and leaking vessel. Are there nourishing activities that I can add in to help me stay filled up and be able to provide that same quality nourishment back to my family, friends, and those around me?

So here are a few ideas I have to start slowly adding in some quality moments. (Disclaimer: I will not be rigid about when these things happen, or how often, or for how long. I have tried this and have stressed myself out over it. I will both take advantage of opportunities to add these things in but also, be aware that if the opportunity doesn’t come, I might have to make a little room for it. I’m going for guilt-free here people!) Here are three small things I can add in:

– Getting outside a few times a week, especially on sunny days. This can be a run by myself or a walk in the woods with my sons. I am an outside girl who hates feeling trapped in the house. Just a few minutes outdoors lifts my spirits.

– A quiet cup of coffee and some time to read and think. This is only accomplished these days by getting up before the sun rises. But I find on the days I make the sacrifice on 10 minutes of sleep to read my bible, or journal while sipping on some liquid heaven, I am much less scattered.

– Writing once a week. This is more a personal goal, but one that fills me up.

So, thus begins my little experiment in the concept of quality. Probably only my family will notice if it works. But I am determined to be a more nourished mama. I’m hoping to transform my time with my kids from quantity time to quality time. I’m hoping by making some space for some self-nourishment that some quality things will be able to rise up from me.

Would you consider with me, what are some nourishing moment you can add to your life right now?

Making Space

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Make space for your dreams. That is what I’m doing this morning. Lysa Terkeurst, in her book, The Best Yes, encourages us to chase down our decisions. “Today’s choices become tomorrow’s circumstances,” she says. This was like a wake up call for me.

For a long time, there’s been this seed of a dream in my heart to write. Lately, I’ve realized my circumstances aren’t yielding the opportunity to make this dream a reality. It feels more like this dream has been suffocating there in the soil of my heart as I let other things grow all over it.

Many stressful storms have blown over my heart the last 3 years. A move, my son’s diagnosis with autism and everything after, have been important plants growing my character and changing my heart. As I was swept up in the huge demands of special needs parenting, I forgot about taking care of me. My dreams have been pushed deep inside by the pressing priorities of caring for a son who needs so much extra TLC, changing our diet and lifestyle, keeping up with 2 boys with huge hearts and even bigger personalities!

It’s a new year and it’s time to plant that seed of a dream. Even though it is scary.

While my older son was at school, I timidly signed my 3 year old up for a play time class this morning. And even more timidly dropped him off and came home to my empty house. I both ache with the absence of my boys and am also slightly giddy at the thought of 3 whole hours to myself!

Turning over the soil in my heart, I plant words like seeds. With each stroke of the keyboard I tap them down. What will grow?

I hope to keep this thing alive. Maybe I’ll see in tomorrow’s circumstances.