22 May 2013

Book Review: The Christian Mama's Guide to the Grade School Years

Being a new Mom isn't easy. And it doesn't get easier just because you're oldest is heading off to kindergarten - whether they're going to a public school, a private school or you're going to home school. In some ways, it might even get a little harder. Erin MacPherson's The Christian Mama's Guide to the Grade School Years is just the resource to pick up if you want some honest, down to earth (and witty) advice on how to navigate the waters of school-dom. Erin, and her Mom Ellen Schuknecht, who is a dean of family ministries at a private school, go through the how-to-get-your-kid-prepared low-down. Covering everything from social-emotional learning to bullying in school and what to do about it, this book is a great resource for any parent who has a little one venturing into the world of school for the first time.

I loved this book! I loved the emphasis that was put on spiritual readiness and pointing your child in the direction of the adult that you want them to become (God-loving, people-loving, honest, compassionate, etc). I really enjoyed Erin's antidotes from personal experience as well. She isn't perfect, and she isn't afraid to admit it, which makes her, and her experience and what she has to say, very relatable. I would recommend this book for any parent who has curiosities, uncertainties or downright fears about their child entering kindergarten, no matter which type of school is chosen.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

20 May 2013

Heartbroken for Oklahoma

Many of you probably already know about the devastating tornadoes that struck Moore, Oklahoma, today around 1500 CST.

About the two elementary schools that were directly hit. And the hospital. And the movie theater. And the whole neighborhoods wiped off the earth.

If you haven't heard, click here and here.

There are 51 24 (updated Tuesday morning by OK Medical Examiner's Office) confirmed deaths, many of them children who were trapped in one of the elementary schools. The houses ripped off their foundations, debris littering the area for miles around. The metal wrapped around limbless, leafless, lifeless trees. Cars flipped upside down, tossed about and thrown through walls. The mud caking remaining buildings, cars, people.

The damage path was 30 square miles. The tornado over 2 a mile wide at its' widest.

I am so heartbroken about this.

You see, Oklahoma is my home. I may not be "Sooner Born, Sooner Bred", but I consider Oklahoma home. I left a piece of my heart with the land and people there.

I have so many friends who live in Oklahoma.

Who live in Moore.

Who live in the neighborhoods that took a direct hit.

I have been in touch with them either directly or through friends on FB and so far no one I know has lost their lives or been injured, but some have lost their homes. Everything they have is gone.

Some have damage to their homes, and cannot stay for the time being.

I so want to be there with my friends to help in any way I can. But since I am two states away, all I can do is pray (which is no small matter for with God all things are possible, but in my humanness, I wish I could physically do something to help), so praying is what I have been doing.

I must confess some of my prayers have been questions to God "Why? Why children? Why so much pain and devastation? Why to Oklahomans, who are are good people, God-fearing people?"

The answer I got was a small, quiet voice whispering " . . . he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous." (Matt 5:45b)

It didn't directly answer my questions, but it did bring me a small, still peace inside to quiet the storm of uncertainty and doubt in my heart.

I am praying for you tonight my fellow Okies - praying for comfort, praying for peace, praying for safety (as I've heard looters have already started coming around), praying for those who lost loved ones, especially the parents who lost their child[ren] in the storm, praying for those who lost their homes, praying for mercy . .. and when I don't even know what words to pray, I know the Holy Spirit will intercede on my half in words that I cannot express.

One thing I do know for sure, and it one of the characteristics of Oklahomans that caused me to fall in love with this state and its' people, is that there are people, right now, who are opening their homes to friends and family and neighbors, helping them out, no questions asked. There are people who will be giving their friends, family and neighbors the shirt off their backs. And the people of Moore will come together and comfort one another and help each other through the grieving process, and then they will resiliently rebuild their city and they will be the stronger for it.

You've been down this road before Moore, Oklahoma, and you will overcome tragedy and rise again. God bless you Oklahoma! I love you!

19 May 2013

Book Review: A Place to Belong by Lauraine Snelling

The adventure of life on a ranch in South Dakota continues for Cassie Lockwood in this final book of the Wild West Wind series, titled: A Place to Belong by Lauraine Snelling. Cassie is still getting used to how to live and work on a ranch with help of Mavis and her sons, but the allure of being apart of a wild west show still calls to her. Questioning her relationship and love for Lucas and what the future holds leads her to ask some very big questions of herself and God. What will happen if she decides to leave the ranch and pursue her former life as a star in a wild west show?

I loved this book! I also really enjoyed the prequel, Whispers in the Wind. Snelling writes about ranch life with love and passion, still including the realities of the hard work it takes to run a ranch, especially back in wild west days. The romantic aspects of the story were pretty fun to read as well.  I felt like I was getting to know the characters even more and the friendship between reader and character grew. The story picks up right where Snelling left off in the previous book, although I think it would be possible to read this book as a stand alone.

I would recommend this book for anyone who loves western romance fiction, historical fiction or asked God some big questions about the future.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany Publishing Company book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Color Me Rad 5K!

One of my 101 in 1001 goals was to start running on a regular basis again. I am very happy to [finally] announce that I have been doing just that!

I started running with some friends in late February on a somewhat regular basis (I think they ran more regularly than I did!). And then a week or so later, I found myself signing up for the Color Me Rad 5K on 21 Apr!

At first, I set my goal to run the 5K in under 30 minutes, since my slowest 5K race (back in high school, which was 14 years (years!!!) ago) was never over 30 minutes. Then after running a few weeks, I revised my goal to just run the entire race and not walk at all. (I was having a hard time making it 1.5 miles without stopping to walk, although that was because I got such horrible cotton mouth and had to have some water before I started gagging and throwing up.) I think the longest run I got in before the race was 2 miles, so I was pretty sure I wouldn't make my goal.

I also counted time at Jazzercise as training, because frankly Jazzercise is quite the workout! :)

A whole bunch of us at Kirtland PWOC signed up for the Color Me Rad 5K and a friend of mine even ordered us some neon streaked "Crazy Pants"!

So the big day arrived and I felt ready!

It was a beautiful Albuquerque spring day! Race day dawned bright and clear with sunny blue skies. It was pretty cold but once the sun was out for about an hour, it warmed right up. I hosted a breakfast with a few of my friends and we car pooled over together. Mike sweetly watched the kids so I didn't have to worry about them.

I was really surprised at how many people turned out for the run! We later heard that 5,000 people signed up to run! And over $4,000 was raised to help with the Boston Marathon Fund after the horrible terror attacks that happened near the finish line at the Boston Marathon just a short time prior to this race.

Of course, this was a Color Run so we had on white t-shirts and we all had our crazy pants.

I'm third from left.
The run was a lot of fun! We were in the first wave at 0900, but then they broke that wave into 3 or 4 shorter waves, so we ended up waiting at the start line for about 25 minutes before we finally got to start. I ran the entire race with my friend Whitney and her friend Heather who had come in from out of town to run the race with Whitney.

There weren't as many color stations as I thought that there would be, but they were pretty fun to go through and we got doused with colored powder and colored spray of some kind (it wasm't water, whatever it was, and it was cold!). The race was held at the Balloon Fiesta Park, and they even had a hot air balloon tethered above the racers, which was pretty cool.

I'm on the far left.

The race course wound around and at the very end they had a huge color station and I couldn't even see through the cloud of orange color, it was pretty neat crossing the finish line again for the first time in so many years. And I met my goal - I ran the entire way without stopping!! (I carried water with me).

It was a super fun time, I loved getting back into running again and being in a race, and being completely covered in color by the end was pretty rad, if I do say so myself. :)

I got blued right in the face at the start of the race!

17 May 2013

Early results

This week Butterfly had her Evaluation with Childfind APS. I capitalize Evaluation because it the weeks and weeks (and weeks) leading it up to it for were just filled with all kinds of worry. Mostly about the unknown. Crying when dropping your child off at school is not a good sign of healthy emotions. That was me crying, not Butterfly.

What is going on with Butterfly? How do we deal with this? What will the future hold for her and our family? (In case you didn't know, I'm a HUGE planner, and, well, when a wrench gets thrown into the plans, I about have a nervous breakdown. It's a control issue. I'm working on it.)

I digress.

Monday and Tuesday were the big days. Two of them. 2-3 hours each day with a team of therapists.

I really had no idea what to expect. We arrived at the school, Little Man and Flower safely ensconced at a friend's house playing the morning blissfully away. We got right to work. Butterfly sat at a table and the first therapist, a Educational Diagnostician I think, sat with her and went over lots of pictures (match this to that, which one is like the other one) and had play with blocks (build a tower, copy the pattern of colors) and so on. Then she watched Butterfly play with all kinds of toys that Butterfly really loved (they had a farm! and dinosaurs! and cars!) While she played, I answered questions. Lots and lots of questions about how she functions, what she can do, what she does regularly, what she doesn't do.

Blown away.  That's what I was. If I thought I was blown away at the Screening appointment, that was minor compared to this. That was Old Faithful. This was Mount Saint Helen's.

Very little. In some cases, absolutely nothing. That is where Butterfly's comprehension is at. I'm still having a hard time putting it into words, which isn't so great for Mike, especially since he wasn't there.

After meeting with the Educational Diagnostician, she met with the Occupational Therapist to stack more blocks, draw some lines and circles, do some running and jumping, climb the stairs, throw a ball around and kick a ball. Fun fun fun! Although honestly, Butterfly really wanted to play with the farm that she was knew was there somewhere (she does understand some things).

Tense afternoon and evening for Mommy anticipating Day 2.

Day 2, we met with the Speech and Language Pathologist. More games of "Which one does this go with?", matching, completing sentences based on pictures, a phonics test and then more watching Butterfly play.

They said it would take the team a few weeks to get together and as a team analyze the results and come up with a diagnosis, and then I will come back and we will go over the report and the recommendations, etc.

The Educational Diagnostician was so sweet though and called me Wednesday afternoon with some of the early results because she knew I had been so nervous about what was going on.

This is what I posted on FB:

Got a call from ChildFind APS: no definitive diagnosis yet, but preliminary results show significant developmental delays in several areas including cognitive understanding, fine motor and social. She scored below the cutoff for autism rating (which is good), but she does have some red flags for autism, so we're going to wait until she's been in developmental intervention preschool for a few months before testing her for autism. Basically, she doesn't understand most of what you say to her, or ask her to do (you have to show her a few times). She did do really well on verbal testing and she has a good vocabulary and she has great imaginative play. (She's a little backwards on her results, usually it's the other way around - poor verbal, good nonverbal). We will have our meeting to go over the report and final, definitive diagnosis in a few weeks (early June most likely). Please pray that she can get into UNM's Speech Language Group for Preschoolers this summer.

The gist was that she has a lot of words, but she doesn't know what they mean or how they relate. This is a little backwards from most kids who are developmentally delayed (must be all those novels I read to her when she was little). And she has some flags for autism.

I thought I took the news pretty well. 

And then came The Incident. 

Butterfly has this new thing where if Little Man is near her, she gets really upset. I used to think it was provoked, but now I realize, it's not. 

Wednesday afternoon, he was standing in front of the coffee table, arms wrapped around himself, watching Wreck It Ralph and Butterfly just started yelling for him to move and leave her alone, etc. Now since I happened to see the entire incident, I knew he hadn't done anything to her, she just didn't want him 18 inches away, or near, her. So she hit him her toy.

Normally I would have spanked her for this, but in light of her understanding issues, I decided to simply remove said toy from her. She went nuts. But not as nuts as she went after she hit Little Man again on the head with her other toy because she couldn't get the first toy back and then I took that toy away too.

Go directly to temper tantrum. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. 

In the midst of her temper tantrum, she knocked over some water and then fell, sitting, into it and got really mad, took her skirt and undies and proceeded to run around the house half naked, screaming. 

This kind of behavior does not  fly with me, especially running away from me when I ask a child to come to me.  I yelled (yes, I yell) at her to quit it and put her clothes back on, and she started to scream again, then (I guess seeing the look on my face) acquiesced. 

In that moment though, I felt the distinct impression that this was the picture of my life now. And it was not the picture of a normal life. Home. Child. What have you. A felt like I had this glimpse into what life with a special needs child is like. 

I. Don't. Like. It. 

Can I be selfish for a moment please? I want a normal child. A want a 4 year old. Who acts like a 4 year old. And plays like a 4 year old. And understands like a 4 year old. 

It's not that there's this trigger that just went off and suddenly Butterfly is different, although sometimes it does feel like that. It's now I know. 

Now I know she doesn't understand when I ask her to go bring Mommy the wipes. 

I know that she doesn't know what I'm asking when I ask her to tell me what I just read to her in her favorite book. 

I know that she doesn't know what I mean when I ask her what her favorite part of the walk in the mountains was. 

What I don't know is: Where do I go from here?

How can I help her at home? 

What happens tomorrow? (Although who really knows that??)

So I thought I could handle the news okay and then The Incident happened and then right after we had to all get into the van to head to the Chapel for Family Dinner Night, which involved more yelling from Butterfly. 

So we're driving to the chapel, which is all of 1/2 mile, and the tears just started falling, without permission.

Okay, I've got to pull it together before we get there. Mike was working late because he was on an exercise, so he was going to hopefully meet us there later. I'm fine, I get to the chapel, give a friend some clothes, we get inside and to a table. I snapped at my poor friend who was just offering to help. 

And then another friend walks in and goes to greet me with a hug, just like always, and the floodgates open. Right there in front of everyone. 


I guess reality decided to take the delayed gratification route. 

So now we wait some more. Wait for final diagnosis and IEP. Wait for Early Intervention Preschool to start in August. Wait to try to get into the UNM Speech and Language Preschool this summer. (Still haven't heard back from them.)

Waiting is hard. So until then . . .

11 May 2013

2013 Book Challenge

*** 2013 is now over, and the 2013 Book Challenge is now complete. I read 33 books, falling very short of my goal of 52. Sad sad. Oh well, I still did a great deal of reading and I enjoyed it all! :)***

I'm not officially linked up to a Book Challenge (because I haven't had time to look for one) but I still wanted to share what's been on my reading list this year.

So far, my stack of books "to read" on my nightstand has been growing and growing! Hopefully I'll get through all of them this year . . .

Goals, goals, goals! Gotta have a goal! My goal is 52 books this year. I don't have an infant this year, so hopefully I'll be able to get that far! :) Last year I read 44 books . . . You can see my list here :)

1. The book must be finished in the year 2013 (books started in 2012 are okay as they're finished in 2013).
2. The book must be at least 100 pages long.

Here's what I've read so far this year: What have you been reading?

Books Completed (not in order):
1.The Anger Workbook by Les Carter, Ph.D. and Frank Minirith, MD
2. Stumbling on Open Ground: Love, God, Cancer and Rock N' Roll by Ken Mansfield
3. A Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr
4. Learning to Love: Passion, Compassion and the Essence of the Gospel by Heidi and Rolland Baker
5. Unglued Devotional by Lisa Terkuerst
6. Swept Away by Mary Connealy
7. Matched by Allie Condie
8. Crossed by Allie Condie
9. Reached by Allie Condie
10. A Place to Belong by Lauraine Snelling
11. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
12. The Christian Mama's Guide to the Grade School Years by Erin MacPherson
13. The Point by William E. Jefferson
14. Lady of the Rivers by Phillipa Gregory
15. The Eighty Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts
16. Anomaly by Krista McGee
17.  The Hero's Lot by Patrick Carr
18. Summer Pony by Jean Doty Slaughter
19. Chasing Hope by Kathryn Cushman
20. Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund
21. A Plain Disappearance by Amanda Flower
22. Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden
23. Summer Pony by Jean Doty Slaughter
24. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
25. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
26. The Promise Box by Tricia Goyer
27. An Untamed Heart by Lauraine Snelling
28. My Antonia by Willa Cather
29. Divergent by Veronica Roth
30. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
31. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
32. Finding Your Hearts Desire by R.T. Kendall
33. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Books in the process of being read:
The Bible (NIV) (13/52 as of 11 May 2013)
The Voice New Testament
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (I finally started it!!!)
Austism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder by Karen Seroussi
Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman

Books to be read:
It's a long list, so I'll have to come back to that one! :)

Being a good mother

It's been a little while since I blogged (obviously) and well, I've been pretty busy . . .doing the Mom thing. :)

Since the discovery of Butterfly's delays, I feel like I have been racking my brain thinking "What have I been doing all year??"

"Where does my time go? What is different about now?"

And finally, after a lot of reflection, it's that I don't get down on the floor and play with the kids as much anymore (if I'm truly honest, read: hardly at all). I think it has been a combination of things.  ... life has been busier with running around taking Butterfly to school two days a week and let's face it, that's two hours each day in the van just driving . .. and I've been going to Jazzercise on the days that Butterfly is in school, and sometimes Mondays and Fridays too . .. and I've been trying to keep up with the house and be a "perfect housewife".

The thing is, while each of things in and of itself is not bad, add them all up and it was a recipe of selfishness, on my part. A big part of it is that I bought into the lie, yes lie, that to be a good mother equated to worldly values . . .I'll elaborate.

To be a good mother . . . my house has to be as close to immaculate as I could get it (which isn't close, let me tell you).
To be a good mother . .. I had to have "me time" working out and getting in shape.
To be a good mother . .. I had to have my child go to a really good private, Christian, preschool, and I have to drive her there, all the way across the city.
To be a good mother . ..  I had to make homemade breads and homemade snacks and homemade from-scatch meals. Every. Single. Day.

I bought into all this, unfortunately. Not that these are bad things. But when you put these things ahead of people, that's when they become bad.

I've been spending a lot of time recently in prayer asking the Lord to show me what happened. What went wrong. What lies was I believing?

And the above is what He showed me.

The truth is, I am learning, that motherhood is about relationships, especially with my children (yes, I am just now figuring this out). If you have small children like I do (currently aged 4, 3, 21 months), that means spending lots of time on the floor doing wooden puzzles, reading books, building block towers, playing with animals, and just sitting and cuddling. Showing them what relationship is about.

I'm learning that it's okay if there are dishes lining the counter if it means I can show Butterfly how to patiently fit the puzzle piece into the slot and I can sit along side and cheer her on, face to face, and give her a high-five each time.

I'm learning that it's okay if I desperately need to vacuum if it means teaching Little Man how to share a toy loving with his sister and rejoice with him when he learns what joy there is in sharing.

I'm learning that it's okay if the laundry goes one more day without being folded and put away if it means encouraging Flower to help her siblings put toys away and she sees that helping everyone is fitting in and being apart of the family.

I'm not saying that this has come easy to me, it hasn't. But I'm trying to discern between the voice of the world and the voice of God. Because the voice of the world is saying I have to do this or that so that I can be a good mother. But the voice of God is saying I have to be this or that to show my children how to live properly and in a way that is fitting for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Because that is really what matters - the Kingdom of Heaven and what we are doing to show that we are citizens of God's Kingdom and we are raising future citizens for His Kingdom.

People are what matter to God. Not cleaning. Not home cooked meals. Not a fit body. Not the best schools. Relationships are what matter to Him. I'm learning that and it's been a hard, but rewarding, lesson.

So when that still, small Voice inside of you says "Sit on the floor with your child and teach them, be with them, show them", please heed it.Ignore the dishes, the laundry, the vacuuming, for the time being. For time is surely short and once they're gone, they're gone. The dishes and laundry will always be there, but your children, my children, won't be.

02 May 2013

Book Review - Swept Away by Mary Connealy

A lone man named Luke with a mission of revenge rides the West Texas wilderness near Palo Duro Canyon and stumbles upon a young woman washed down the river by a flash flood. He has a lot of his mind, but he can’t leave her there to die, so he picks her up and takes her with him on his horse to his destiny of taking back the ranch that belongs to his family.

Ruthy finds herself in the arms of a strange man after being swept away from her family as they journeyed by wagon train to the far west.  Not that she was upset by that. Now she finds herself in the world of Luke Stone and his loyal friends in the middle of nowhere, near Palo Duro Canyon, Texas.  What has she gotten herself into now?

I really enjoyed this book from the first pages. Mary Connealy writes Swept Away  with intrigue, suspense and a plethora of humor  amid the backdrop of the vast, arid lands of Texas.  I loved the way the characters’ stories and back stories wove together and how they all came together for a great purpose at the climax of the story. I am a lover of history, so I found the back story of Luke Stone and his friends, who were prisoner’s in Andersonville Confederate Prison, delightfully intriguing and a powerful way  to weave the friendship of the men together.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, western fiction and/or comedy and romance. I am really looking forward to the second book in the “Trouble in Texas” series when it comes out.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany Publishing Company book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”