Wednesday, August 28

One Big Crazy-Happy Family!

We've been blessed with an academically gifted child and a special needs child, allowing us the opportunity to gain wisdom and insight from a variety of specialists and fantastic folks...teaching us the fine art of patience...driving home the point that everyone's plan looks a bit different...and giving us a love for the homeschool life!

So....come on in and meet the kids!

Big'Un -- The one who writes Modern Mythology posts and runs Sparks Forge & Armory...
At the birth of our first child, my husband and I happened to be living with his parents.  Neither of us had the slightest idea what to do with this tiny little bundle that we were now responsible for, and we were incredibly lucky to have them around to teach us.
 He grew.  He grew and he grew and he grew.  (The Very Hungry Caterpillar)  And we started to feel more confident, but the game kept changing.  We no longer lived with his parents, but they were close enough to provide guidance.  Though far away, my parents were available daily, via phone, and we put that speaker phone and unlimited long distance to good use!  
Soon, he grew to be a happy, healthy three year old!  Through minor surgery, a bout of RSV and rotovirus requiring ER trips, and getting his head glued back together (he's very proud of his Harry Potter scar today), we managed to protect and nurture this little boy.  We were so confident in our abilities that we created another one!  (Learned our lesson on that one....they're all different!) 
Nearly ten eighteen years in, we still look to our parents for guidance and welcome the advice freely offered.  We know that we are good parents, but we are better parents because we seek out and listen to the wisdom of our elders.  We're far from perfect (so far, that we can't even see the road sign from here), but continually strive to better ourselves.

Years later, I watched my sister struggle as a new mom, without the benefit of a hands-on teacher at her side, and it reinforced just how fortunate we were in those early years.  She has the phone-connectedness, but there's nothing like a hands-on teacher, by your side, to boost your confidence.

Why am I telling you this?  It's because, if you are a new homeschooler, ASK for help, ACCEPT help, and AVOID self-judgment.  You don't have to take everyone's advice to heart, but you never know what sorts of ideas might be tossed out there, or lifelines thrown, if you'll just ask.

The first year is a steep learning curve, like the first year with your new infant (because even babysitting doesn't prepare you for the full weight of parenthood).  It will get easier, as you build up confidence in your abilities.  They're your children.  Just as you know what's best for their health, and how to soothe their ouchies, you are going to know how they learn best....and you're going to be invested enough to tailor that teaching specifically for them.

Little'Un -- Who keeps us on our toes and runs Xander's Farm...
We make no bones about the fact that our son was born with special needs.  It's changed how we live our lives.  It's changed us as a family.  It's made us a stronger family.  What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  -Nietzsche (not Kelly Clarkson)

Unlike most babies, you won't find many pictures from his first year of life.  I won't get into specifics, but it was very touch and go, and there were times when we specifically didn't take any pictures because, if he wasn't going to make it, we didn't want pictures around.  It was a crazy time and, with hindsight, I'm not sure that we would have approached it the same way now. 
They say that "with hardship comes intimacy."  Experience tells me that hardship will break you down into itty-bitty bits and spit you out.  Our family fell apart in crisis.  It's true.  For two years, we lived in a constant state of crisis, and it was only through the grace of God and our family support that we stuck together.  However, that intimacy that they speak of (whoever this "they" is) came later.  Now, when we face hardship, we know we can do it together.  Because we have before.
Fast forward four years.....those who didn't know his past would only think that he had some minor difficulties to overcome.  Those who did know the entire story were AMAZED at his progress.  I remember the doctors at the hospital telling us, multiple times, "This little boy is a fighter!  He should not be here.  He is very stubborn!"  We laughed and cried at the time over these statements, but would fully embrace them as a preschooler.  When I approached my wit's end with his stubborn behavior, my husband would remind me of the doctors' statements.  The same behavior that I was eschewing was the very reason he was still with can you be mad at that?

Like every child, he has his "quirks."  For starters, Southwest Airlines.  There's not a person in the world (including the CEO of SWA himself!) that loves those planes more than my son!  For his birthday, my husband made this plane out of Styrofoam.  Three and a half years later, we're still the crazy family with the airplane tied to the trees in the front yard!  Ice storms, tornadoes, heat still hasn't fallen apart!  (Updated: It took seven years for that blasted plane to finally die! 😏)
 By the age of four, he was an old pro at surgery.  This picture makes me proud, and breaks my heart, all in one moment.  He's so brave about the medical procedures.  He shouldn't have to's not supposed to be like that for children.  Recently, he's begun to notice that other children (like his brother, specifically) don't have to go to the doctor all of the time.  They don't have to get poked, and have surgery, and see a million different specialists.  He wants to know why he has to...and I don't have a good answer.  Again with the heart-breaking...

I know that God has a plan for him.  He brought him back from death, the night he was born.  He gave us the strength we needed as a family.  Our son is the most compassionate, caring, joyful little boy, and I can't help but attribute part of that to the struggles that he's overcome.  I have no idea what the future holds, but I can't wait to see!
School IS very difficult for him.  He's very intelligent, but his brain works differently.  He's a few years behind, but making steady progress, and he definitely forces me to stretch my brain to come up with new and creative ways to teach!  It's not always easy, that's for sure.  Luckily, a couple of years ago, fate found me a partner-in-time.....she has children the same age, and is going through similar struggles.  We live several states apart, and accidentally bumped into each other on a homeschool facebook group, but the connection has been such a blessing!  We support each other, lift each other up, and kvetch to each other daily.  When you have a special needs child, you HAVE to have support, whether from a group of folks or just one person who really gets it!
Before we decided to homeschool, his "file" had over a dozen different IEP labels on it, half of which were malarkey.  Here's what we know for sure - he has a history of serious health issues, and some lingering ones today (some of which are side effects of NICU drugs......we no longer blindly trust someone just because they are wearing a white coat!).  He has a pretty good little speech disorder, as well as auditory processing, sensory-motor, and fine-motor disorders.  As his mother, I believe the one accurate label handed to us was Dyspraxia.  ALSO - he is quite the little drummer!  He snuggles better than any child I've ever known.  He finds great joy in helping out around the house, and cannot let a person be until he sees them smile.  He has this innate empathy and compassion that transcends everything else......well, everything except sibling rivalry. 

Some days, it's a hard row to hoe, but we wouldn't have it any other way.  I'm glad to have a front row seat as we see how God brings him forth into this world.

Other family members you might see featured include....sisters & cousins!

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