Monday, November 29, 2010

Finding Empathy for your Child

This may not be the most "practical" of my practical tips, but it is important, and it is fresh in my brain not to mention begging to be redeemed, so here goes...

This afternoon I set out on my weekly adventure to run errands, this time accompanied by my oldest daughter. We have a nice little errand routine that has made it almost pleasant, though exceedingly slow, to run errands. Today we needed to visit the library (to return a book at the drive through book drop), the bank, and the grocery store. Sounds simple enough, right?

As I was preparing to turn left into the library book drop lane I noticed an elderly woman driving the opposite direction and decided that though she was proceeding slowly I needed to yield right of way. It's a tight turn and I didn't want to cut her off. I stopped in my lane, so I had plenty of time to see her equally elderly passenger and figured they were having a nice chat as they putted along. As I negotiated the turn into the library I noticed another older woman pedestrian hot on my trail on the passenger side of my van. She was close enough that I was a bit worried I might hit her while also trying to line up with the book drop. She tapped on my passenger side front window. I thought maybe she needed directions or was confused about where the entrance to the library is, so I rolled down that window, but she crossed right in front of my van(!) and came around to the driver's side window. By now I could see she was angry, but I rolled down my window and asked nicely if I could help her. She started yelling at me about stopping so long and letting my exhaust fumes get in her face. I sat there, fully aware that my daughter was hearing every word and watching every response on my part, hoping my face had an appropriate response, angry for the tongue lashing when I hadn't done anything wrong, trying to figure out what to say to make this irritating person leave so I could complete my errand. I said something to the effect of, "I'm sorry, ma'am, I didn't realize that had happened," and instead of accepting my apology or leaving in a huff the woman threatened to call the police next time it happened. (I was not aware that exhaust fumes had ACTUALLY been outlawed, YET.) She then proceeded to call me a crude name as she fumed (sorry, couldn't resist) off into the parking garage. I lamely yelled after her that she shouldn't swear in front of my daughter... (Oh, good comeback, me!)

As I then struggled to return my soon to be overdue video a kind pedestrian who had evidently witnessed the exchange offered to help me, but there wasn't anything she could do about it. I probably responded somewhat rudely to her out of my shock...and drove off in a fog to the bank. My daughter was peppering me with questions. Why did that woman yell at you? What did you not want her to say in front of me? Why should she not say that in front of me? What did you do? etc. etc. Fortunately my continued confusion, embarrassment and shock kept my answers short, to the point, and flat in effect. Somewhere in the middle of the produce aisle I could finally function without constantly thinking about this emotional attack from an absolute stranger. It still makes my stomach twitch just to recount it here.

Part of what helped me move beyond the nastiness of that moment, was a still small voice that said,
"Imagine how your daughter feels when you yell at her."
It gave some meaning to the experience. I've learned a lot in the last couple of years to help keep my temper under better control, but I still have my moments. I'm told that everyone does. It's been a while since someone older than me gave me a tongue lashing that they thought I deserved. No matter how undeserved it was in this instance, I imagine that my visceral responses were fairly similar to what my daughter, and any child, must experience when they're being loudly scolded:
how do I make this person go away
loss of social functioning

There is one really significant difference in the experience. I have no idea who this woman is. Even though we live in a small town, I will likely never see her again (I can hope!) After all my processing it was pretty easy to brush off her opinion of my driving ability, and whatever else she chose to judge in me. When I yell at my kids, they have to live with me the rest of that moment, that day, and beyond. They value my opinion (a little I think) and some piece of their self-image is built upon my responses to them.

I wish I could say I'll never yell at my kids again...that is unrealistic. It did help me keep my cool as I handled bedtime solo tonight. I hope, however, that this experience will give me a little more empathy for what they are feeling when I'm angry with them and will modify my own responses. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. How do you find empathy for your child?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Learning About the Pilgrims

Part of the first grade curriculum in public schools where we live is learning about the history of the pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation (or Plimouth - I'm not sure if this is the original spelling, or if it is the creative spelling employed by first graders). In any case my daughter wished to tell us all about the things she has learned about the pilgrims and the Native Americans who helped them during their first year in the New World. According to my daughter's new-found knowledge:
  • There were 102 pilgrims who embarked on the Mayflower along with the few belongings they were able to bring with them.
  • They lived on-board the Mayflower for sixty days and sixty nights before reaching Plymouth.
  • More than half died from illness, and only 50 remained to settle the new land. My daughter says they died of sea-sickness, but I imagine there were many ailments that affected them.
  • Their first village burned down.
  • They lived in one room homes and nearly starved their first winter.
  • The Native Americans (Wapanogs, I think that is the correct spelling...) taught the pilgrims how to plant food, corn in particular, and how to hunt and fish.
  • To express their thanks to God for bringing them through one hard winter and for providing adequate food for their second winter they prepared a great feast with the Wapanogs, which we commemorate with our own feasts to this day, though I'm sure the foods are quite different.
There was one final point which we wanted to be sure our daughter understood. We asked her why the pilgrims had to get on the Mayflower in the first place. She told us that "The queen would not let them worship God the way they wanted to, so they got on the Mayflower to find a new land where they could worship God the way they wanted to." We are still thankful today for this wonderful freedom to worship God as we choose. Imagine the hardships that our forefathers endured to secure this freedom for us. The short list above is just what a child has been able to learn and keep in mind for the last few weeks. I'm sure there are innumerable other burdens they bore - difficulties in child birth, in leaving behind family and friends, in nursing their sick little ones in vain, and burying them on a distant cruel shore. They bore all of these costs for the freedom to worship. May we remember this high price and worship God today and every day, not just for what He  has given us, but for Himself and all that He is.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Preparing to be Thankful

My second post over at 5 Minutes for Special Needs. We are getting ready for Thanksgiving and giving thanks! Happy Thanksgiving to all of my faithful readers!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


After profiling several rare disorders I thought I should look at something that is quite common. According to some sources Dyslexia is the most common learning disability among children - it affects an individual's ability to read, write, spell and sometimes speak even though their cognitive abilities are average and there is no hearing or vision impairment to explain the difficulty. Dyslexia can be mild or severe and is a life-long condition with no cure. However, the symptoms may change over time, and many strategies and coping skills can be learned to overcome the challenges. I was told some time ago that children with speech and language delays are more likely to have challenges later with reading, so I've been on the look out for dyslexia in my daughter for quite a while. She is now almost seven, and she is reading, but still struggling somewhat. Her teacher assures me that she's on track and progressing. I decided I should educate myself a little and learn what exactly I should be watching for.

When I started researching for this post all I knew about dyslexia is the symptom of writing letters and numbers backward or mixing up the sequence of letters or digits when reading or writing. Reversing letters and numbers apparently is quite common until age seven or eight and then should diminish. Some other symptoms of dyslexia include:
  • disorganized writing
  • challenges remembering story elements even from favorites
  • difficulty with spatial relationships - both academic and athletic
  • confusion of left and right; may not use one hand dominantly
  • difficulty moving in rhythm with music
  • may not remember or understand oral instructions
  • following more than one command at a time is challenging
  • may struggle with verbal expression, at a loss for words even if they know what they want to say.
  • emotional difficulties may arise - withdrawal, depression, poor self-esteem
  • behavioral issues - social challenges, acting out, may appear lazy
Some of these symptoms of course overlap with other disorders, so it is important to pursue appropriate assessments in order to reach an accurate diagnosis. Evidently there is a whole list of tests and assessments that can be used to pinpoint the exact area of difficulty a student is having with their reading. Appropriate strategies and coping skills can then be taught to overcome that challenge.

There are actually three main causes of dyslexia:
1) Trauma induced dyslexia occurs after some accident or other injury affects the area of the brain that controls reading and writing. This is increasingly rare in our populations, probably thanks to the now widespread use of car seats and seat belts in vehicles, and helmets for bicycling, etc.

2) Primary dyslexia occurs from the congenital dysfunction of the cerebral cortex (left hemisphere) and is an inherited disorder that most commonly affects boys. This form does not change over time and often limits reading abilities to a fourth grade level.

3) Developmental dyslexia is thought to be caused by hormonal effects during early fetal development. This form is also more common in boys, but also diminishes as the individual matures.

Parents should consult with school staff if they suspect dyslexia is affecting their child's ability to learn. If the child already has an IEP their plan can be modified to specifically address this concern. If the student does not already have an IEP the school will likely begin by assembling a Student Study Team which includes relevant school staff and the parents. Within this team a strategy to assess and support the student's learning can be developed.

For more information about dyslexia:

MedicineNet article and discussion
Learning Disabilities Online

I also thought I would mention that a friend of mine, Janet Ann Collins, recently published a children's book where some of the main characters are affected by dyslexia. It's called Signs of Trouble. She posted the cover art on Facebook today, and I'm sure that influenced my choice of topic for this post!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

CD Review - VeggieTales Sing-Alongs Rock-a-Bye Veggie

Rock-A-Bye Veggie
I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical when someone gave us this CD a few years back. I enjoy the VeggieTale shows, but had not heard any of the music, and I expected it to be somewhat like listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks - cute but eventually annoying. It may be that this is a particularly special case. I still haven't listened to any other VeggieTale CDs, but I actually enjoy this one a lot. The other day when my youngest daughter asked to listen to some music I voluntarily put on this CD. Really.

Part of the reason I like it is because the songs are ostensibly lullabies. The music is all really mellow and it shows when the kids listen to it. My children will dance to just about anything even remotely upbeat. (I am always fascinated by this since neither their father nor their mother enjoy dancing - we didn't even dance at our wedding. But I digress...) With the Veggies serenading us my children will play quietly and listen more closely to the songs they are most familiar with. When I find something that helps maintain a calm mood around our house, I like it!

I also like the selection of songs. Some of them are just classic lullabies, like Rock a Bye Baby, Brahm's Lullaby and All the Pretty Little Horses (my favorite!) However they've also included several "old" hymns like For the Beauty of the Earth, This is My Father's World, and Morning Has Broken. If you can get past the fact that you're listening to a singing tomato, or cucumber, or asparagus (which isn't too hard) there are even some pretty nice harmonies. There are some humorous verbal side notes and some really beautiful verses added to the classics.

After all of the songs play with lyrics there are "split-tracks" with just the instrumental versions. These, of course, are even more calming than the vocal versions.

In all it is a more refreshing and enjoyable musical experience than I could have imagined. Someday I hope it will be our entrance point to the movies which so far have been too complicated for my oldest daughter to understand. I think maybe I'll dig out the Christmas show soon and see if she gets it this year...

Some Exciting News

One of my favorite group blogs recently put out a call for new writers. I responded, and I was offered a slot. So every Wednesday I'll now be posting over at 5 Minutes for Special Needs. My first contribution "Doing the Best I Can" was published this afternoon. I'm so excited for this opportunity. It will probably mean some changes to my schedule here...which I'm still figuring out...but I will keep you posted on that front. Meanwhile, I hope you'll enjoy reading my posts and the other new contributors over there. I'll be posting my usual review here later today. See you soon!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Digest 25

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Next week we have our big pie and praise festival at our church. It almost snuck up on me this year. Usually I plan carefully which pie I'll be bringing. I always bring an alternative to pumpkin because I don't like pumpkin pie, and I know someone else will bring the pumpkin for everyone else who does like it. I's almost un-American to not like pumpkin pie. What can I say? Anyway, I'm finding myself with a lot to be thankful for. So much that I'm a beat or so behind where I need to be. Not so busy that I haven't had time to find you some good reads/listens on the internet. Read on in this SILVER (25th!) edition of the best of the rest...

1) We love fidgets, and this link (found via OUR Journey Thru Autism) has some good ideas for a fidget bag that is suitable for keeping in a school binder, and the fidgets to put into it. Children with sensory integration and self-regulation issues often have a hard time quieting their body for events like circle time, assemblies, waiting in line, and working quietly at their desk. Fidgets are usually small, interesting but not too stimulating (fine line here) objects that a student can keep in their hand to help them keep the rest of their body quiet. I kind of self-discovered this way back when I was in college and I was finding it hard to pay attention in some of my faster-paced, content-intensive classes. I made a bean bag, which I called my blob and I would hold it in one hand while I wrote with the other. My daughter responds well to fidgets and we used to carry a fidget bag just about everywhere we went. She still has one or two available at school when she needs them.

2) One of the reasons I re-started The Simple Life was to explore ideas of teaching matters of faith to children with special needs. I recently saw this excerpt of a speech by a Jewish Rabbi. I think many of the ideas expressed here could be applied in other faiths, and I believe this is one of the upcoming challenges to churches, synagogues and other places of worship. We need to be prepared. Many parents that I've met don't feel like their special needs children are welcome in their house of worship...and that is beyond sad in my opinion.

3) This story from Eren over at Steady Mom will help you feel good about how our children, of all abilities, can inspire and teach us if we let them. Technically no special needs involved here, but talk about underdogs.

4) My 5th grade French teacher posted a link to this interview on Facebook. I love how Facebook reconnects us with so many different influences...The interview on NPR is with a woman, Heather Sellers, who is affected by "face blindness" - basically she has no memory of what people's faces look like, even people she knows well like her husband and colleagues at work. You can listen to the interview, and read an excerpt from her book "You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know". This is one more reminder to me of how fragile our brains really are...and I can't help but wonder if this disorder is somehow related to the misfirings of autism that lead to similar difficulties with reading social cues like facial expressions.

5) Tammy and Parker are hosting a Boardmaker Studio giveaway over at 5 Minutes for Special I've not used Boardmaker personally, but I know it is widely used for PECS (picture exchange communication systems), visual schedules, social stories, and other visual aids. My kid seems to need pictures of her real life situation most of the time, so we're wearing out our digital camera, but Boardmaker can be a really useful tool. And they're GIVING it away...the giveaway is open until November 15, so you have ONE DAY LEFT to head over there and sign up...

So I am Thankful for fidgets, faith, children, faces, and giving. I am thankful for you, my faithful readers, and I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving season!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Make New Friends

My daughter has always enjoyed being around other people. I remember telling my mom when she was a baby that her happiest days were the days that we went out to do things with other people and her hardest days were the days that we stayed home alone. This "social intent" is an argument that some school staff have used to discount her autism diagnosis. However, her drive to be with others is not matched by good interaction skills. In fact at times her social skills regress to the level of her almost three-year-old siblings, though she is four years older.

A couple of years ago we visited a local playground. At that time my daughter needed so much support and supervision that I would only go to this playground because it is small, fenced and was entirely age-appropriate for the twins who were toddlers at this point. I didn't have to worry as much that one of them would wander off or try something beyond their skill level while I was busy navigating the world with their sister. On this particular day there was another little girl there approximately the same age as my daughter. They were both playing on the slide, but my daughter would sit at the top of the slide refusing to go down, or sit at the bottom preventing the other little girl from sliding. I coached her through each bumpy interaction, but I was starting to get concerned that we would need to cut our visit short to avoid an ugly confrontation. Somehow we all ended up on the bouncy "teeter-totter". This is not the old-fashioned teeter-totter that leaves one child suspended 4 feet in the air, but a "bouncy" ride for two to six children with bench-like seats on either end. My daughter was saying that she didn't want the other little girl to ride with us and I was encouraging her to share. I started to say something to the other little girl and realized that I didn't know her name, so I asked her for her name. She responded and asked, "What's her name?" referring to my daughter. I prompted my daughter to respond and she did. It was as if a light switch went on. Quite suddenly my daughter was willing to share the bouncy ride and the rest of our time at the park the two girls played together well, though of course I maintained my vigil. Later in similar situations I always tried to make sure that names were exchanged early to help avoid that particular stumbling block.

I'm remembering this story because of a dramatically different scenario that took place today. We visited a park that we have only been to a few times. It is the polar opposite of the safe little tot playground described above. It is large, open, and has equipment appropriate for a wide age range. In this setting I triangulate, basically keeping all three children in eye-shot, but staying closest to the one who seems most likely to need my assistance or supervision. Increasingly this is my son who pushes the envelope of his climbing skills to the edge of my intense anxiety zone. We started off easily enough with my oldest daughter happily swinging and not apt to run into any social problems...I think this may be one reason she likes swinging so much, besides the whole sensory thing. Several minutes later she told me she wanted to try the "zip line" - which is just a handle that hangs on a cable and slides back and forth when the child swings their legs. One can zip from one end to the other in one swing because it is the length of most monkey bars. I told her to go ahead and reminded her of some positive rules. She still hesitated. I finally realized there was another child on the zip line so I prompted my daughter to ask for a turn, and the other child very kindly relinquished and left the scene. Some time later I checked-in to tell her it was almost time to go and she was still playing on her own on the zip-line. Less than ten minutes later I came back with her siblings in tow and asked her to finish up when I noticed another little girl nearby. I asked if they were sharing and sure enough they each took a turn zipping back and forth. My daughter and this other little girl ran off to tell the other girl's parents something, then came back and played with the zip line a few more times. Just before we took our leave the other little girl asked my daughter's name, and she responded, and I flashed back about two years. I was sad that we needed to leave at this point. Somehow these girls had formed a little friendship over the zip-line even before having that critical data of each others' names. Unsupported, unprompted, unsupervised. I'll mark that as progress and remember it fondly next time we hit a social snag.

It is also a good reminder to me because unlike my daughter I'm pretty much an introvert. If left alone with a good book, my computer, and adequate food for the day, I can quite happily pass the time on my own. In fact that sounds like a slice of heaven at the moment. I can see in these brief interactions the value of even very short term friendship. Each person we meet is an opportunity to enjoy our experiences at a whole new level of pleasure. It is worth the effort to overcome the barriers that we put around ourselves and to learn to connect with those around us, even if we don't know their name. I find myself gaining new courage to approach people with simple small talk or comments about common ground. It is widening my experience of the world around me.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Table Matters

How can I describe what dinners at our house looked like just two short years ago? There were some dinners not unlike some of the best food fight scenes from your favorite 1980 teen flick. Picture bowls of tomato based stew flung off the kitchen island toward the living room (I have never been more glad for wood floors). Imagine musical chairs where only one person is walking around the chairs while the others provide the charming music of, "Sit down right now or..." You get the idea. Throw in two high-chair bound newly self-feeding babies, a worn out mama and a frustrated papa. Would you like to come over for dinner?

We still have our issues at dinner, but I'm glad to say that the food now stays on our dishes, except for legitimate spills, and we have regular (for us) conversations...where three children talk at the same time and two grown ups try to listen and maintain order, and wedge in some adult news when possible. It's a charmingly normal, if loud, family dinner.

What worked the magic? No magic here, folks, just some determined, consistent, calm, positive parenting under the tutelage of our mentors. There are some general guidelines:
  • Try to serve at least one thing that each child likes to eat.
  • Try to serve dinner as close to the same time each day as possible. (I fail at this sometimes, but at the beginning we were eating at 6:00 sharp every night.)
  • Parents are strategically placed between children wherever possible, though I can manage all three children solo now, if needed.
  • Don't plate the children's food (which we were doing previously). Instead parents control the food and serve "family-style" from the center of the table.
  • Key: When serving the children two questions are favored: 1) Where should I put your ___? and 2) Would you like a little or a lot? Sometimes for the latter question we ask a number or, if you're feeling really creative, a shape (e.g. for bread, square/rectangle/triangle, etc.)
  • Also Key: Re-phrase child's response as politely as possible as in: 1) Right here, please. and 2) A little, please. If the child replies with a polite form of their own initiative, praise them! "I like the way you said that!" or "Nice asking!" If you have re-phrased for them then wait for them to parrot the polite phrase before responding with the next question or by placing the food on their plate. The pause for politeness is so important...eventually they start initiating those polite phrases and it is just great!
  • If you give a child a choice about whether or not they want an item (which we do now from time to time) their responses should also be polite: Yes, please or No, thank you.
  • If the children ask for more of something this needs to be polite too: More ____, please, Mommy.
  • For a while (a couple of months seemed to do it for us) adult conversation is off-limits. Pretty much everything said should be about the food, or at least directed toward engaging the children in talking at a level that's appropriate for them. Now we like to ask about our favorite thing at school that day. These days we can edge in a sentence or two to each other, but we have to be careful not to get into extended discussions because it's very easy to upset the balance and lose the positive attention that the children are really craving during this time.
All of these questions, responses, and interactions begin to engage the children in polite and appropriate ways around sharing the food. With all of the positive attention and engagement it is easier for them to sit and eat. They enjoy feeling some sense of power over their food. They tend to actually eat more. There is still some general pickiness, especially in our younger set, so we've added a couple of soft rules. They need to try everything before they can have seconds of anything. If they don't like something, we're working on getting them to leave it on their plate (because this is the polite thing to do if you have tried something and don't like it). For some reason my kids like a clean plate one way or another, and if they don't like it they want to give it to someone else or do just about anything to get it off their plate...including eat it if Mommy insists that it stays on their plate. Well, it works sometimes. If I already know one of my kids doesn't like something (my boy refuses just about all pasta/noodles) then I don't give them much to begin with; just enough to try it if they are brave that day. And if they don't try that particular item I usually don't make them. No need to reinforce their dislikes with a negative experience. No dessert if they don't eat their protein and fruit or vegetable. That one is hard to enforce when two of the kids clean their plate and the third just wasn't hungry; and dessert is a big deal at our house, courtesy of Daddy's DNA. In that situation the non-eater gets a pretty boring dessert - a graham cracker instead of cookies from the jar.

This is what has worked for us, and it has only gotten better as the kids get older and more into our dinner routine. I'm not embarrassed to have them eat with us when we have company now, although I do sometimes feed them early if the company dinner time is far removed from our norm or if we have some specific adult conversation that needs to happen over the meal. In general dinner time is a happy time at our house now.

Credit where it is due: I learned about these and other techniques I am currently using with my daughter from two wonderful people, Clarissa Montanaro and Robin Hauge. Please contact them at clarissamontanaro-AT-gmail-DOT-com for more information.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Everybody Goes Surfin'...

Here's something to make you wish you lived in Southern California...unless you already do in which case you should head out to Dana Point, and specifically Doheny State Beach where volunteers from Best Day will be working with children with a variety of special needs to help them surf, body board, or kayak. November 13 and 14 for half of each day, children with a variety of challenges are invited on a first-come, first-served basis to work one on one with trained volunteers to enjoy the sand and surf. I can hear the Beach Boys harmonies in the background.

Best Day is an organization founded in 2008 by Max Montgomery and Brooks Lambert. They've already hosted nine similar events in New Jersey and Ventura, CA. Check out some photos of those events here.Their goal is to help children with special needs gain confidence and self-esteem through safe and fun adventures. The events are size-limited to ensure safety. They are also free to registered participants because Best Day is run by volunteers and funded through donations, grants, and sponsorships.

Want to get involved? Visit the Best Day website for more information.
  • Volunteer - older school children through senior citizens can all play a role in making this special event happen. Don't like the water? There are plenty of jobs for land-lovers. Check it out.
  • Donate or become a Sponsor to help keep these events free for the kids
  • Bring Best Day to your community
  • or Bring a kid November 13-14 to Doheny State Park, Dana Point, CA or one of the other upcoming events and join the fun

Let's go surfin' now...everybody's learnin' how...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Race

I used to think of my life as a treadmill, running ever faster and threatening to throw me off the back end as seen on so many sitcoms. I'm trying to retool the imagery and consider it to be a race instead. This is very Biblical.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. - Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

It's imagery brought to my attention often. I have several friends who are runners - triathletes, ironmen and women, even. One good friend just finished her first 5k race after exercising for the better part of a year, losing weight and feeling more and more assured of her ability, she signed up for a 5k race and finished it in 31 minutes with energy to spare (at least from the looks of her after picture). I have watched these friends in awe. How do they do it?

Then the other day someone I don't know very well, who really didn't even know the full story of what our family has been through in the last three or so years kind of made the connection for me. All she knew is that I have three kids, one older and a set of twins. She looked at me and said, "I'm just amazed that you do this, and you're here." I hope my face expressed my confusion as I said, "What? Do you think I should be crumbling to pieces any minute now?" I realized she was watching me with that same sense of awe...How does she do it? There's no magic here, I just do it. Nike style, I guess:

unhindered, persevering, eyes fixed

Today is perhaps not typical, but if it's not one thing it's another. Other than our recent vacation (which now seems like ancient history) the number of times in the last few years that I have sat around wondering what to do next are non-existent. There is always something to do, and usually several important things vying for my attention... Today, started off something like this:

7:00a - Wake up after sleeping poorly since 1:00a, listening to my poor little guy cough his way through a virus and then try to go back to sleep. I weigh the option of taking him in to see the pediatrician only to be told  "It's just a virus...there, there...go home." Decide it's worth it to be able to sleep better tonight.
7:10a - Wake up daughter and set timer for "snuggle time". Get breakfast ready for four people - not me...realizing that IF I get to eat breakfast it will be on the go.
7:25a - Ask Daddy to take daughter to school so I can go to doctor's earlier. He hits the shower. I start packing one snack and two lunches. Remind daughter to get dressed.
7:45a - Wake up twins and get them started on breakfast. Get daughter started on breakfast. Get dressed.
8:00a - Put shoes and coats on twins - leaving them in their jammies. Remind daughter to get shoes on. Make sure backpack is packed.
8:15a - Realize I'm going to be fighting school traffic. Herd twins to minivan. Herd husband and daughter to school. Drive alternate route that turns out to be probably worse than the first idea.
8:45a - Arrive at pediatrician. Miracle occurs and the boy coughs while we are there and doctor decides he needs albuterol treatment...
9:40a - Leave pediatrician armed with drug and nebulizer, realize I have 20 minutes to get home and prep for my next appointment...

Tired yet? We're not even through the first three hours. It goes on. Chiropractic appointment for me, then voting. Lunch time, nap time, school pick up, gymnastics, dishes, dinner, make muffins, bake pumpkin, search for errant paper unsuccessfully, bedtime for kids, finally time to work on my laptop or desk...

I am not writing this to boast, or to complain. There is nothing amazing about what I do. Via the web I've met parents of children with greater needs who do more with less resources, and they don't complain either. This is just what we do when we've decided to invest our lives in our offspring. I increasingly believe it is among the holiest of callings, this parenting thing.

Unhindered - For me this means keeping my thought life away from worry, complaining, and other forms of negativity. I try for a daily dose of worship. If I let myself give in to negative thoughts I find myself unable to run the race. I'll be winded on the sidelines before I even hit the starting line.

Persevering - Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Do it again, and again. This doesn't mean you don't take time to rest. I do. Then I get back up and get going again. The alternative just won't work.

Eyes fixed - This is the hard part for me. The author of Hebrews doesn't say, "eyes fixed on...your to do list, your kids, your wallet, or the people around you." Even the Biblical "cloud of witnesses," while encouraging, is not to be our focal point. The focus is Jesus. Why? Because He has already run the race and He is the best example of how to do it...unhindered, persevering, eyes fixed on the joy set before Him. The joy set before me is to hear Him say, "Well done."

That's why and how I'll keep running. Join the race!

This post is participating in the last ever Moms' 30-Minute Blog Challenge at Steady Mom. I'll miss the opportunity to connect with other bloggers this way. Thanks Jamie for hosting it for so long, and best wishes in your new endeavours.


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