Morning Inspiration

It was a tough morning. One of my sons insisted on refusing to do what I asked:

  • He refused to eat his breakfast
  • He refused to drink water
  • He refused to pass anything to anyone

In addition, he spilled water on the table and floor, swiped his lunch kit onto the floor, and glared. I told him he could not go to school until he ate his breakfast, drank some water and apologized for his behaviour.

After I put my other children on the bus, I asked my son to join me on my morning walk with our dog, Olaf. He put on his shoes and came.

As we walked, there was little conversation. I focused on breathing deeply and enjoying the beauty of nature. The theme of the morning turned out to be wild flowers.

The first flower that caught my eye was an Alberta Wild Rose. Once I paid attention, I noticed many other rose bushes scattered throughout the area where we walked.

Wild Rose

On our walk we also spotted blue bells, flowering Saskatoon bushes, and dandelions – both blooming and going to seed.

Our walk only lasted fifteen minutes, but my perspective shifted a hundred and eighty degrees. When we arrived back at our house, my son cheerfully complied with my requests and I took him to school with a smile on his face.

Perhaps I should implement a morning walk for him more often 🙂

What have you discovered in your parenting journey that has surprised and delighted you? Please share!


A Voice for the Voiceless

I’m angry. It brings out the “Mama Bear” in me when I hear stories like the one I heard yesterday (names changed).

Belinda has a son who has special needs. She did what she was told and enrolled him in a local school when he was five. He didn’t learn to read that year, or the year after, or the next . . . at eleven years of age he still could not read. Her son received some help at school. She trusted the school to do what was best…until she received a phone call from the school telling her that her son was no longer welcome in the school because “he is a sexual pervert.”

Belinda asked some questions and discovered her eleven-year-old son was given a spy game to play on an iPad belonging to the school. Her son accepted the game and played it without supervision – not for half an hour, but for a whole day. One of the first levels of the game instructed him to take pictures of people he was spying on. He did what he was told and took pictures. Lots of pictures. Of both boys and girls. Parents of the girls found out he was taking pictures of their daughters and complained. That’s when Belinda received the phone call.

Belinda was unable to resolve the situation with her local school, so she contacted a different school and asked to enrol her son. The “new” school contacted the previous school and was informed, “the child is a sexual pervert.” The “new” school refused to enrol Belinda’s son based on the information provided by the previous school. Belinda decided her only option was to homeschool her son. He had been in school for six years and could not read, so she figured she couldn’t do any worse. Then, she discovered the local school had reported her to Child & Family Services. Now she is not only juggling the challenges of parenting and homeschooling a child who has special needs, but she is also spending countless hours defending her ability to care for her son.

Why didn’t the local school provide adequate support for Belinda’s son? Why does a school choose to turn a student away because of a label, without researching the background? Why is it that a parent with a child who has special needs is often taken advantage of because he or she doesn’t understand how “the system” works?

We can do better, Alberta!


Sneak Peek into what I’m teaching at a Writing Camp for Kids

This week I’m combining my love of writing and teaching through play to facilitate a writing camp for kids in St. Paul, Alberta. The St. Paul & District Arts Foundation is offering Compose Your Summer, four days of literature and dance. Miss Heather is facilitating the dance and I’ll facilitate the writing portion.

Here are some of the ideas we’ll be trying:

DAY 1 – FOCUS ON SETTING

Ice-breaker idea from She’s Crafty

 

Challenge: Draw a giant map or picture of your story world using crayons, markers, paint, or whatever else you choose. Think about what your world is like, who lives there, and how your characters work together or against each other.

DAY 2 – FOCUS ON CHARACTER

Challenge: Explore costumes and figure out what your main character looks like. Draw a picture of your character and/or fill out a character questionnaire. Then interview a fellow camper and find out about his or her character. If you’d like, you can act out your character and we’ll capture him or her on video.

DAY 3 – FOCUS ON STORY STRUCTURE

Challenge: Brainstorm a beginning (including hook), middle, and end to a story with the group. As a group, act out the group story, which will be videoed. Decide on the main points of your own story and either write out or act out your story. (Discussions of genre and dialogue as time permits)

DAY 4 – FOCUS ON PULLING THE PIECES TOGETHER

Challenge: Explore the senses and create a sensory dictionary as a group. Go through your story and highlight each sense with a different colour. Discuss self-editing tips as a group. Exchange stories and give feedback. Work on revisions.

RESOURCES:

20 Three Minute Brain Breaks

I’ve found an amazing array of resources on writing and teaching writing to children to include as handouts for each participant.

Stay tuned for a report back on how the writing camp went and lessons I learned 🙂


Town of Banff

Our 2015 family holiday in Banff National Park

This past week our family had the opportunity to enjoy the stunning natural beauty of Banff National Park. In this post I’m sharing some of my favourite pictures. In the next few posts I’ll provide details about some of the places we visited and activities we enjoyed.

Big Horn Sheep
Big Horn Sheep

We were able to see many different kinds of animals. When I commented that the sheep were molting, one of our sons commented, “Well, you know, Mom, it is summer!”

Glacier Sky Walk
Glacier Sky Walk

The Glacier Skywalk topped my list of activities. What an amazing view!

Ghost mining town at Lower Bankhead
Lower Bankhead

Looking for a free, educational activity? Check out Lower Bankhead, which used to be a mining town in the early 1900’s.

Boat ride on Lake Minnewanka
Boat ride on Lake Minnewanka

Although we had been on the boat ride before, we learned many more interesting facts, thanks to our informative guide, Dan.

Hiking in Banff National Park
Hiking in Banff National Park

There is a wonderful variety of hiking trails in Banff National Park – all lengths and levels of difficulty.

Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure
Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure

The Brewster bus ride onto the Columbia Icefield Glacier takes you down the second steepest incline (32 degrees) in the world.

Bull and cow Elk near Two Jack
Bull and cow Elk near Two Jack

We were delighted to find this pair of elk just outside the entrance to the Two Jack Main campground.

Elk at dusk in Banff National Park
Elk at dusk

The above shot of an elk at dusk is my favourite photo from our trip.

Bird on sign at Jasper glacier
Lots of natural beauty

A whiskey jack entertained us while we were at the Columbia Icefields visitor centre.

SONY DSC
Too close to the bear!

Despite warnings, tourists insist on feeding animals and getting close to the wild animals. One guide asked us if we knew which animal sends the most tourists to the hospital from the national parks. Any guesses?

SONY DSC
View from Sulpher Mountain Gondola

We enjoyed a ride on the Sulpher Mountain Gondola. What a view!

Where did you go on your family vacation this year? Any hints to share?


Lessons in Trust and Technology

Lessons in trust and technology

 

Sometimes I just have to laugh. (I’d rather laugh than cry, wouldn’t you?!) After I posted last time, I ran into major technology issues. It all started quite innocently, with the addition of a new e-mail address. After the creation of the e-mail address, I wanted to add it to my e-mail program so that I don’t have to check e-mail on the web. Although I thought I had the address configured properly into my Apple Mail program, I soon discovered I made some errors, which not only resulted in me not being able to access my new e-mail address, but also resulted in me not being able to access my website, or the website of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, or the admin panel for either of these websites. Why? Because my IP address was singled out as the source of a possible virus . . .  and blocked. This happened on May 21st and today is the first day I’ve had access to all my services again!

At first I felt stressed, frantic. I’m in the middle of taking an excellent course from Shelley Hitz, called Author Audience Academy. I started the section of the course on building an e-mail list, only to find myself locked out of my website. I couldn’t change anything, I couldn’t apply what I was learning, I couldn’t even look at my website.

Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do, I decided to focus on what I could do. I’m also in the middle of writing my second how-to book for Twitter (Learn Twitter: 10 Intermediate Steps). My original goal was to have the rough draft finished at the end of last week. That didn’t happen. I still have three chapters to write and edit. I’ve already told people I’m going to publish it the end of June and next week I’m going to Write Canada, which means no time for writing. More cause for panic . . .  Or not. As I thought about it, I remembered that I could upload a draft copy and put the book up for pre-sale. As long as that happens in June, people will be happy because they know the book is on its way. That gives me some breathing space and allows me to finish the book well. It also gives me time to get the book to beta readers for feedback. (If you’d like to be one of my beta readers, e-mail me!)

Although I wasn’t able to post on my own blog, I was still able to write two posts which were shared on other blogs:

 


Shadow (German Shepherd/Collie/Mongrel) joined our family when our oldest daughter was eighteen months old. He died peacefully in his sleep when she was fifteen, under the trampoline where he spent many hours “supervising” as our children played and jumped above him. He lived a full, long life, but it was hard to say “Goodbye” or think of replacing him. Nine months ago a beautiful white bundle of energy (Husky/Malamut) joined our family. Our children named him Olaf, after the snowman from the movie, Frozen. Olaf has reminded me of several important truths regarding parenting (Click here to read the rest of this post on A Beautiful Life.)

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” -William Wordsworth

It started at the breakfast table. After we read about what qualities God looks for in a person and how we should look beyond people’s actions and appearances.

“You’re dumb. I don’t like you.”

“I don’t like you either.”

“Mom, Levi’s bugging me.”

I sighed. My husband was already at work. “Are you guys being kind to one another?”

They gave me crooked grins and shook their heads. It was quiet for a few milliseconds before they were at each other,  again.

(Click here to read the rest of this post on InScribe Writers Online)

I believe God’s timing is perfect. I know that He is trustworthy. But sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to lose sight of HIM.

What have you been learning about technology and/or trust lately?


Parenting: Getting through the tough days (Parenting Blog Hop Week 1)

Parenting Blog Hop

 

Question: What do you find most challenging about parenting? 

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)

For me, the most challenging part of parenting is adjusting my expectations, training, and discipline to the uniqueness of each of my children.

I have five children ages seven to seventeen; Each child is different. One child craves hugs and responds better to life if the hug quotient is full. Another child doesn’t want hugs, but responds well when I take the time to sit and listen. One child has a sensitive spirit and rarely needs discipline. Another child constantly challenges authority.

It takes time to get to know my children. The way my children enjoy spending time with me is also different. My youngest just wants to be with me and often offers to help with whatever I’m doing. My next child loves to play games. Another son enjoys riding in a vehicle with me – the destination is unimportant. His brother still comes and sits beside me, or even on my lap, gives me hugs, and compliments me often. My eldest child prefers to communicate with text messages.

Some of my children also have special needs. This means that I can’t expect my fourteen year-old to act like most fourteen year-olds. Sometimes a younger sibling things I’m being unfair because I expect more from the younger one than the older one.

Parents have the challenging job of knowing our children and then teaching and training them accordingly. I’m thankful I don’t have to tackle parenting alone. My children have a hard-working Dad. We all have a Heavenly Father who stands ready to give us His wisdom if we will only ask:

“If any of you lackswisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5 NIV)

Question: What helps you get through the tough days?

Several things help me when I face challenging days as a parent:

  • Prayer – God is never too busy to hear my desperate pleas for help.
  • Reading God’s Word, the Bible – There are many encouraging passages I return to again and again. Some of my favourites are Psalm 37, Psalm 1, Isaiah 41, and Ephesians 6
  • Perspective – Talking to parents who’ve gone through similar situations and have survived is a great encouragement to me.
  • Sufficient Sleep – It’s always easier for me to handle challenges when I get my sleep!
  • Healthy Food – I try to choose more fruits and vegetables rather than products with refined sugar. However, chocolate is still part of my diet – in moderation. 🙂
  • Respite – Sometimes I need a break from my children to clear my thinking and renew my perspective. I find an occasional break is good for both me and my children.
  • Confession – When I make a mistake as a parent, I’ve found things turn around quickly when I’m willing to “‘fess up.”

What about you? What do you find most challenging as a parent? What helps you get through the tough days?


[inlinkz_linkup id=523165 mode=1]


Redefining Disability Week 9: Leisure Activities

Leisure activities and disability Leisure activities can be a challenge for families and individuals who live with special needs. Some individuals are able to participate in most activities while others either have to have activities adapted or participate in a limited way.

This summer we had the privilege of hosting my brother and his family. My niece is in a wheel chair, but she doesn’t let that stop her if she can help it. She enjoyed participating in a family water fight, although she was frustrated that she couldn’t actually control where and when the water was dumped. She also enjoyed a trip to our local blueberry patch, strapped into the seat of a motorized golf cart. While the rest of us picked, she held the bucket for us. When she had enough of that, she figured out how to push the gas pedal and laughed hysterically when she bumped into a tree. Her positive attitude inspires me.

Our twins are able to walk and even run – something a paediatrician thought would never be possible. However, due to cognitive limitations and poor motor control, they are not able to participate in team sports.

In The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius, Kristine Barnett describes it this way:

“Would my son never know what it felt like to shout ‘Goooaaaaal!’ or to douse the kid who’d pitched the winning game with Gatorade? Would he never know how it felt to slide into home plate, seconds ahead of the tag? Did his autism mean that Jake would never make a touchdown or get grass stains on his soccer uniform?”

She goes on to describe how she set up weekly events where special needs were not a barrier:

“We had the soccer coach from the high school come to teach the kids soccer…we got members of the U.S. Hockey League’s Indiana Ice to come and play on the carpet with the kids. When we finally moved out to the baseball diamond, I maxed out my credit card to buy different-colored T-shirts with the team names on them so that the kids would know how it felt to be on a team. For many of the lower-functioning kids, sitting in that dugout was the first time they’d been apart from a parent or caregiver. But they were fine, because they were with their teams, and of course, their parents were cheering them on like crazy from the bleachers. By that time, we all felt like one big, happy family.

It continues to amaze me how much we all take for granted. Until I was ushered into the world of special needs by way of my children, I didn’t think twice about leisure activities. Now I not only plan our family schedule, but often I also help create opportunities so that my children are able to participate and enjoy the activities. We go swimming, skating, tobogganing, build snowmen, travel, read, take photographs, and garden. We laugh and play together. Our leisure may look different, and we may not participate in some activities, but life is still rich and full. The smiles on my children’s faces are proof.

What are leisure activities like for you and your family?


redefining-disability1

In 2014, Rose Fischer started a Redefining Disability Challenge. This year she is continuing to invite people to join the challenge by blogging about a set of questions she developed. I’ve decided to join this challenge and most Mondays (or Tuesdays!) will be answering one of her questions.


Redefining Disability Week 8: Family life and disability

Disability and Family Life

In our experience, raising children who have special needs affects every facet of family life: family activities and recreational choices, schedule, discipline, holidays, even the type of work and ministry parents have. I don’t see living with a disability as a disadvantage, but it is different.

The “disabilities” of our children include difficulty with balance, cognitive limitations, fine motor challenges, behavioural challenges, hearing loss, and extreme near-sightedness (myopia). This means that although our children are able to participate in most activities, the activities will look different. For example, even though our twins are fourteen, they do not have the motor control necessary to participate in bowling without some help. They love the activity, but it has to be adapted for them. This means that family activities take more planning and preparation for our family than for some other families. The end result is that we don’t participate in as many activities because of time and energy limitations.

Our family schedule is also different from many families because our children seem to require more sleep. On school nights we aim to have our four younger children in bed between 8 and 9 p.m. We have discovered by trial and error that less sleep for our children affects everyone negatively. (I’ll leave the specifics to your imagination 🙂 ) Our schedule also has to allow more time for most every day activities that most people don’t even think about – dressing, eating, bathing, etc.

Discipline (teaching and training children) is a challenge for all families. In our family we have to make sure we consider our children’s abilities. I’m thankful our children have the ability to learn. Sometimes they learn quickly; other times it takes hundreds of repetitions to teach them. Some skills will never be attainable due to physical and cognitive limitations. For some of our children, we can assign extra chores. For other children assigning extra chores means that one of us adults will be working right beside the child, sometimes hand-over-hand. We’ve had to assess consequences to make sure one child’s consequences do not severely impact other members of the family.

Our family has had the opportunity and pleasure of going on some holidays many people don’t experience. We have made multiple trips to the United States and a couple trips across Canada. Our children love to travel. Probably our most memorable trip was traveling through 28 states in 30 days. A feat in itself, but more of a challenge when you have a family member without bowel control. Again, pre-planning is important, and generous amounts of time and energy.

One fact I’ve had to come to grips with is that I will not be able to work away from home full time, at least not in the foreseeable future. The special needs of our children require that my schedule is flexible. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to find ways to contribute to our community and broader world through writing and other work on my computer, and also through prayer.

It’s time for me to put breakfast on the table and start a new day. Thanks for stopping by. Does your family live with disabilities? How does it affect you? If your family is not affected by disabilities, did you find this post surprising in any way? Leave a comment and let me know.


redefining-disability1

Last year Rose Fischer started a Redefining Disability Challenge. This year she is continuing to invite people to join the challenge by blogging about a set of questions she developed. I’ve decided to join this challenge and most Mondays (or Tuesdays!) will be answering one of her questions.