Thursday, October 29, 2015

Loss of a Friend

Last week I found out that a dear friend from my high school days had died after a long stretch of living with cancer.

And it broke my heart.

For a week now I have been trying to pinpoint my feelings and why her loss stunned me so deeply.
After all, I haven't seen her since high school.
We kept in touch for a while in college, but then she got married and started having babies and we lost each other.
Several years later we somehow got in touch with each other and started sending the yearly Christmas cards with a few sentences about our families. Then lost touch again.
Through Facebook several years ago, we reconnected and I found her to be the same funny, amazing woman I remembered her to be. After several exchanges, she let me know that she had the tumor and that it was terminal.

I was devastated for her!

And I thought, selfishly, devastated for me.

I have been thinking about that a lot since her passing, and I realize that it is not selfishness that has torn my heart apart.

When we met in high school, I was somewhat of a mess. I was a relatively new believer in Christ, and I will openly admit, I was not very schooled in what was right and wrong. I had faith and enthusiasm, but was not great on delivery. I did many foolish things. Things that she could see, things that effected her at times. And yet, in spite of myself, she loved me and accepted me anyway.
She welcomed me with open arms. She opened her world to me. She taught me, forgave me, laughed and cried with me. When I think back to our times together, my sides ache from the laughter! She was talented. She was probably the closest thing to a female Dick Van Dyke that has ever been!  She could sing, and dance, and had energy galore. She was so creative. She came up with some of the funniest ideas for our camp skits. Most importantly, she was a good and Christ-like young woman.

So it may be easy to see why it breaks my heart that she is gone. It isn't selfishness. It is knowing that someone who has been such a great influence on your life and has then gone on to do the same things in the lives of countless others is now gone.

I didn't find out that she passed until an hour before her funeral which was 8 hours away. And I cried.
I wished so much that I could have hugged her family, met her kids, told them how much she meant to me personally.

They probably wouldn't need me to, because she was that person for them in the way they needed her. They have their own wonderful stories of laughter and tears and goodness.

I am sad because she is gone so young and I won't see her again in this life.

I am sad for those who never got to meet her and be friends with such a wonderful person.

I am sad for those of us who had the chance to know and love her for a while and be blessed by her goodness, humor, talent, intelligence and insight, and will miss her influence.

And at the same time I am so grateful that God blessed me to have her in my life, even for a short time. I have memories that will make me laugh and cry forever. I will always think back to girl's camp and the pots and pans tied to various parts of her as she became our one woman band. I have a better sense of right and wrong because of her. I have so many memories of good wholesome times because that is what she was.

Anita, I love you. I know that those who knew you will treasure their memories with you. Thank you for living your beliefs and helping me to learn how. Thank you for being the amazing woman you were created to be!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Executive Function Disorder a.k.a ADHD

I realize I may be opening a can of worms here, which I am absolutely NOT trying to do. I honestly just hope that if someone else is struggling with this with their child and sees anything in their struggle that sounds like ours and is able to get help, it will be worth the worms.

Our son, was the kid who started Kindergarten at age 5, one of the youngest in his class, because he was really ready. He was the smallest and one of the youngest and did great in school even though many of the other kids were at least a year or more older than him. Where we were living it was thought best to hold kids back until they were 6 to start school.

He did pretty well in school for the most part although writing sentences was his nemesis. He hated it in spite of his well developed vocabulary and ability to express himself verbally.

Then third grade hit and he was falling behind, especially in math. So we took him out to homeschool him thinking that more one on one attention and help would fix the problem and then we would put him back in at a different school the following year. Since I had taught school for 8 years, I was excited to work with my son at home.

It was a nightmare. There were things that were so great! We read the classics and had great discussions, we dove into history and learned so much. But getting him to start and finish work was horrendous.

The following year he went to a much smaller school and for the most part had a great experience. He had wonderful teachers that we adored! And they loved him. But it was still hard. He often forgot books or papers, couldn't stay organized to save his life (even though his schools had provided planners every year). We would find done assignments not turned in, or assignments that were due smashed in the bottom of his back pack.

Each year it got worse. But his teachers loved him, loved his discussions in class, his positive cheerful demeanor, his knowledge base. Until he got a teacher who couldn't handle his disorganized, messy, and noisy ways. He is a pencil tapper. He may fully be paying attention, but likely is also tapping his pencil. I totally get that it can drive you crazy. I have been a teacher. But he was made aware and it hurt him.

At home we, for several years, had been dealing with stomach issues. There was one year that he missed so many birthday parties and events we knew he would love because of a sick stomach that we got worried. We had him tested for everything. It all came back normal.

At home we were also dealing with one very angry child. He was mad and he was taking it out on everyone all the time. We had to separate him from one brother at the dinner table so we could endure meals. We put 3 kids in one room and him by himself for the sake of peace. We tried ignoring the mean-ness hoping it would go away, then we went to punishing for it. We were always pointing out things he did good, when he was treating others nicely, when he got things done, when he cleaned up his messes, etc. But to no avail. Things at home were miserable.

Starting Junior High with a variety of classes, teachers, teaching styles and expectations proved to be disastrous. Within a short period of time he was dealing with bullying, not fitting in, and assignments  he couldn't keep track of, He failed a class. It was awful for him. It was awful for us to watch him and honestly too, to be with him.

He stopped wanting to go anywhere new. He also didn't want to be anywhere or doing anything that someone might see him. When he was much younger we had tried to get him in to flag football. He wouldn't do it because "someone might watch him play and mess up."

Over the summer we reached critical mass. I couldn't take any of it any more. It was destroying his relationships with his siblings and with us. I thought it was our bad parenting, or maybe he was just a really tough kid, but whatever it was, I was truly afraid of what might happen if we didn't get some help.

A friend mentioned a neuropsychologist she had taken her daughter to. I looked him up and his credentials really impressed me.
I will never forget calling from the floor of my closet in tears because I truly didn't know if he could help us, but I did know we couldn't go on as we were.

We got him in 2 months later for 4+ hours of testing. Filling out the paperwork was brutal. I really did question my parenting, my mental state, were we crazy, was the problem all ours and our poor kid was just getting messed up by us?

I even told the doctor as I left his office that I wanted to know if he was smart, or if we were just expecting too much from him. Picking him up later that day, the Doctor said, "He is very bright. And when we get together in 2 weeks to go over all the results we will come up with a plan." I felt so much better. Until 3 minutes later when he made his brother cry on the way home.

Sitting in the doctor's office for the results was the beginning of a whole new world for us. He started by letting our son know that he is indeed a very bright kid and that he has a wonderful brain. Then he explained that although his brain works very well, there are some connections that just aren't happening and he went through the tests explaining the test and what it measured and how his brain worked. Some tests, tested basic knowledge, could he read, do math problems etc. And some tested how he thought, retrieved information, planned (or didn't) how to tackle issues.

Our son said, "You mean I'm not dumb?" Noooo, far from it. I am so glad the doctor said this to him with us there for proof.

Ultimately we found out that he is bright, has a hard time with impulsivity, multi step processes, has some technical reading issues. He also has anxiety which is bad enough to explain the stomach problems he has battled for years and why he doesn't want anyone watching him, particularly if he might mess up.

The Doctor said we needed to make a new plan. Every night we go through each class, whether he has homework or not. If he has homework, we work on it, if not he has to tell us what he learned in that class that day. Then we go to the next subject. He already stays for math tutoring at school every day, because the math takes me too long to figure out :). We color coded his folders for each class. We make sure all of his papers are in the right folders and that they are done. And so far, this coupled with the promise that if he does this each night without issue, he can have 30 minutes on his tablet has proven to be golden. Then he is getting something he wants, he is reviewing his work daily, I know what is going on in each class and he gets the chance to teach me anything new he learned.
We have also met with the school psychologist and his teachers.

The school psychologist pointed out that this is how his brain works. It is not because of our parenting, what he eats or pollution. This is how he is hard wired. We can give him supplements, change his diet, make him exercise more etc. but we have to accept that this is how he was created and that by working with it now and hopefully creating some new habits we can help him learn some techniques to help him also succeed with it.

What have I learned? I love my son. He has some quirks we have to work with (but really who doesn't), he is smarter even than I thought, and we have a long road ahead of us. But now we know what road we are on.

What has it done for him? He now has validation from two doctors that he is very bright. That he is not a bad, dumb or lazy kid. He has gotten much nicer to be around. Things are not perfect, but they are oh, so much better.
At this point, this is where we are. We are getting his school stuff in order. The doctor said counseling might help, and we may need to, but right now we have to get the school stuff down before we can add anything else. He doesn't need medication, but if the day comes that he does we know where to turn.

There may be another post on this as we continue on and maybe not. But if it helps even one mom feel she is not crazy, or one dad to say, "hey we can get help with this", which leads to one kid who says, "You mean I'm not dumb?" Then it is worth it.

The doctor did let me know that what they know about this has increased dramatically in the last 20 years. He recommended books to read, counselors we could see, and the steps I described in helping our son. It has been so worth it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Church Farm

This morning was wonderful. We got to see the sunrise over the Superstition Mountains.

We got to eat donuts and drink chocolate milk in the car.

We got to go back to the farm.

Our church has a farm about an hour away from where we live and last year was our first time to go work at it. So we spent 2 hours digging dirt out of irrigation ditches right beside a cotton field. My kids got to see how cotton looks as it is growing. And they got to experience one of the many chores in farming.

So we signed up again this year. And we went back. We spent two hours digging out dirt and mud. It was wonderful.

We worked alongside other volunteers we didn't know, but soon found we had things in common.
As volunteers, we did a very small part of a necessary job so the farm can water its wheat crop.

To me, this is where it gets exciting. That wheat will be grown and harvested and then people can buy the wheat from the church. Or the wheat gets packaged and sent all over the world and freely distributed to those in need. Some is donated in shipments of supplies for the Red Cross to distribute, and some is distributed by the church. So many times those packages of food are the life saving staples for those who have had their homes destroyed by natural disasters.

When I think of the times that these disasters happen, I know that the church has very likely sent supplies. And I can think of people getting supplies that maybe came from the fields we worked at or the many other fields that volunteers throughout the country are working at just like we did. I think of the thousands of volunteers who package what the church has grown and get it ready to put in those care packages or on the shelves of food pantries.

Sometimes when I see all that is going on all around the world I get overwhelmed. I want so badly  to help. Sometimes I think about how small my little contribution is in the midst of big disaster.

But then I realize that each of us giving what we can give or doing what we can do, collectively makes a difference.

And I can know that even for a very short period of time and in a very small way, my family helped.

We didn't change the world today, but for a few hours our world was changed.