Mothering is so…. hard.  It is so incredibly hard.  You lay everything out there, you keep nothing, you pour it all out.  Sometimes you leave so little for yourself that you run out of gas.

I don’t know what God instilled in mothers to give them the instinct to love so deeply.  I am not a natural nurturer…. Maybe that is why I latched onto the word so long ago?  I found the word “nurture” on a FB for sale webpage one day and had to have it.  It is the single word that I have striven for since I became a mommy.

But there have been days, weeks, months, when the gas tank was on empty and I didn’t love mothering.  I think that should be said.  Sometimes as mamas we think that we should find nurturing natural.  Or maybe that we should like to pour every ounce of ourselves into our children?  It isn’t natural.  If I confess Christ and I believe the Bible as Truth then I believe that the natural state of man is a sin nature, selfishness at the core.

And I know I’ve felt it before.  Not on those, “Mama, I don’t feel good,” nights when the preschooler comes in with sleepy eyes and tousled hair and needs, desperately, to be held, tucked into your own bed, and their tummy rubbed so that they can get back to sleep.  But definitely on the mornings where I haven’t yet had coffee and I just want to finish reading a post or sending an email! 😉

I need this to be said, to be written.  Long ago a book was written: What is a Family?

But I ask you: What is a Mama?

This needs to be written.   We live in a culture where women can, and do, almost anything.  This past year I was wife, mama, worker, student, homeschooler.  It was many plates to keep spinning and I think I did well.

 

Then.

Then yesterday came.
I have been sick.  Not “real” sick in that I felt bad, but sick in that something wasn’t right.  I began to drag a foot.  Not such a big deal.  I had had a car  accident back around 1997 and the dashboard came back and bit that leg.  I thought certainly this old nerve damage come to haunt my present.  After all, last summer, a summer in which I hauled dirt, built up our foundation, gardened, mowed with a push lawnmower, helped carry sheets upon sheets of drywall, and dug out my entire flower bed and replanted perennials until my heart sung with happiness.  I love being busy.  I love being active.  I love being outside.  I was in the best physical condition of my entire 39 years.

My first neurologist thought nerve damage or, maybe MS?  But four MRIs cleared the MS.  A perfect EMG cleared the nerve damage.  The EMG, lol, was an eye popping experience.  Not exactly painful, but not something I’d readily sign up for again.

She told me, “I understand you *feel* like you are dragging a foot, but I find nothing wrong.”  I felt dismissed.  I felt silly.  Maybe it had bothered me for a week and I just got used to walking like that?

But then…..  But then my leg started to twitch.  I called the office.   I asked the question, “Could the EMG cause my leg to twitch?” Their reply, “No.”  Just no.  Not just no.  Absolutely NOT just no.  I asked for the referral to the University.  They gave it.  Probably they thought I was silly.

I *felt* silly.  I felt paranoid.  I had that first visit in early/mid January and felt so good.  The doctor, old, comforting, warm, told me he thought my MRI wasn’t exactly right.  He suspected Multiple Sclerosis too.  He found a few concerning things.  My reflexes were “very brisk.”  I had clonus in one foot.  But, overall, I just looked good. He wanted to confirm the MS with a lumbar puncture.  I wasn’t scared – hello, um, twelve babies? 😉 I also asked for a Lyme test of the CSF.

No MS indications.  None.
A tiny amount of Lyme antibodies that they tell me is still negative. Figure that one out.

The next week? This wonderful man retired.  And I, non emergency, got shoved to another doctor’s new incoming patient lists.  November was my next appointment.

In the meantime? My balance is a little wonky.  My twitching? Now in the left leg, the abdomen, the right arm.  It’s February.  The morning of my nephew’s birthday party I noticed something strange about my leg.  The calf of the left leg was rounded, full.  The upper calf of the right leg?  Flat.  The difference was so slight I thought maybe I was imagining it.  I kept it to myself, quiet, until my husband noticed his loud, noisy wife was being hushed.  So I had him look.  And he saw it.

And he saw it.

Until that moment, no one else could see my symptoms.  I had convinced myself that maybe it was in my head. I repeated the first neurologists words so many times, “I understand you *feel* like you are dragging your foot….”

And he saw it.

😦

I called the University scheduling.  They couldn’t do anything.  I was a “new” patient and non-emergency.  The next week, in Iowa City anyway, I “dropped by” the office.  I don’t think you’re supposed to do that, lol.  I dropped by and asked if a nurse could take a peek at my leg.  I didn’t want to seem like a nutjob so I brushed away the fear, “I’m sure I’m imagining this, but…….”  I have dismissed myself, my thoughts, my fears.  It isn’t selflessness.  It is that the medical community is so dismissive of us, that we feel as though we are a bother, or stupid, or somehow that our concerns are not legitimate.  I am so strong, so insistent, so vibrant when dealing with my kids’ medical concerns and so dismissive of my own.

The nurse saw it.

She called in the doctor.  The doctor saw it.  And I had a sinking feeling.
He was out next week, he explained, but could I come in the next Monday morning?  So I did.  And that was yesterday, March 13th, 2017.

And that was the first day we were told that ALS is now on the table.
I am forty years old.  I am the wife to one and the mother to eleven.

I will be damned if this will become a blog about ALS.  Or that I will let it become a blog about a slow demise into a pit of despair.

The original intent of this blog is:
To EQUIP  and INSPIRE hearts and minds of children for the GLORY of CHRIST.

And so I will carry on.  The second EMG is on Monday.  We expect it will be less than stellar.  But, in the meantime, I will love my children.  I will equip them.  I will inspire them.

I have clarity of thought on this day that I have lacked for some time.  My purpose in this life was to give them life and to pour mine into theirs.  It is not lacking.  It is my contribution to this world.  They are so beautiful, so amazing.

I have told people that I am the most blessed woman they will ever meet.
It’s true. I am.

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I have been searching for the perfect curriculum since….

(Drum roll please.)

Since 2000.  A friend showed me her curriculum (Konos) when my pretty little daughter was four.

bripiano

We began homeschooling in 2001 with much fanfare and enthusiasm.  I had found Susan Wise Bauer and The Well Trained Mind and I was on FIRE!

Throughout the years, I loved and used Sonlight, Tapestry, My Fathers World, and an eclectic hodge podge pulled from catalogs, recommendations, book lists, Ambleside, and TWTM.

I compared, listed pros and cons, sold curriculum, bought *more* curriculum, and was absolutely bent on using the best curriculum I could find.

It has been seventeen years since I perused my first curriculum and that pretty litte girl has graduated our homeschool.  Goodness, that pretty little girl has almost graduated from college!

brisenior

So, seventeen years and what would I do differently and what would I do the same?

I think the differences in who I was as a mama then and who I am now reflects my homeschool choices.   Morning Basket mama, Pam Barnhill, talks about Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, and these characteristics resonate with my soul.

Oddly, often, when mamas talk about these three characteristics, textbooks are shunned.  Speaking as a mama who has a one room schoolhouse going on in her home every morning, I felt that way too.  Originally, following TWTM, I began with Rod & Staff as spines.  Strangely, seventeen years into the journey, I am using Rod & Staff again as my backbone every day.

Am I advocating everyone jump to Rod & Staff?  LOL!  No!  I am saying that if something works well with your family, you have permission to use it.  I found flaws in each curriculum I was using…. A never ending thirst.  Now, older, wiser, more experienced, I am looking beyond the curriculum to the heart of the creators…. I am so grateful to John Holtzmann, to Marcia Somerville, Marie Hazell, Charlotte Mason.  I think it is so important to think about who they are/were and why they devoted their lives to the education of children and their end goals.

Each of these authored and compiled curriculum in the quest to equip and inspire the hearts and minds of children for the glory and goodness of Christ.

Pay special attention to that – each of these people had a goal.  What is that goal?

To EQUIP  and INSPIRE hearts and minds of children for the GLORY of CHRIST.

There is no perfect curriculum but I will confess I believe, firmly, there is one perfect goal.
I want to equip and inspire my children to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is acceptable for me to use real, living, beautiful books AND textbooks.  It is okay for me to use narration, copywork, or a workbook or two.   I have found that textbooks give me time and permission to get the basics done and then move onto real books, handiwork, or just plain free time to be spent together or alone as individuals.

Ask yourself, on your quest, does this equip and inspire my child so that he is better equipped, wholeheartedly inspired, and growing in Christ?  If it does?  Good curriculum.

We had DS’ senior pictures done last month.  How is it that I see this:

cjlittle

But what really is now is this:

dsc_1424-2-kp

Mamas, I know all the old-timers say it, so maybe that makes me an old-timer. 😉

Heed these words: they grow up SO fast.
Love them, nurture them, inspire them, equip them.

If there was one thing I could share with people, it is the necessity to remediate dyslexia.

Dyslexia is an inherited brain type.  This means, most of the time, either mom or dad has been coping and overcoming dyslexia themselves.  Often a parent will say, once they realize they had dyslexia themselves, “I struggled.  I overcame.”  It is true that dyslexics are AMAZING when it comes to compensation.  Their ability to compensate often creates a hard worker, a bright individual who can think outside the box.

That said, why would you send your child out into the world with handcuffs?

Dyslexia remediation lets your child succeed with their amazing brain while giving them the tools they need to truly succeed!

There is much research being done on the concept of neuroplasticity.  The idea that the brain is moldable gives light to the belief that, if remediated, the brain can be trained to read more efficiently and more automatically.  One of the most necessary skills a child will learn in this life is the ability to read.  To be able to read AND comprehend efficiently is a gift.  We owe it to our children to equip them with this ability.  Science has proven that the younger a child is when remediated, the more likely the brain is to adapt.

If you are sitting and wondering (for the 1000th time) if your child has a learning disability and if your child could have dyslexia, can I beg you to get assessed?

There is a huge breath of relief that comes from knowing the hurdle you face.  And once you know your battle, you can stand and face it.  The more you know, the more equipped you are for this battle.  And a battle it is indeed!  However, your child’s dyslexic brain makes them unique, gifted, amazing.  I believe the dyslexic brain is a creation of God, intentional, purposeful, and a gift.  It comes with a challenge – learning to decode, comprehend, and encode the written language.  However, once equipped with the tools to face the challenge, you will find your child winning this battle!

And so it was a full year before we decided to make that appointment to have our son diagnosed.  The two boys presented very differently and because I still wasn’t totally on board with the idea of dyslexia, despite how much I had researched at this point, we chose to make appointments with two separate, reputable professionals.  One was Kelly Arnold of the Northwest Dyslexia Center and the other was Cynthia Arnold,  a wonderful neuropsychologist just outside of Portland, Oregon.

Guess what?  They’re both dyslexic – one moderately and one profound.  The moderate dyslexic READS.  It is a myth that they will not.  As a matter of fact, when tested he read above a 12th grade level – the highest level available for the given test.  But, upon further testing of reading nonsense words, we found he actually could only decode at a 4th grade level.  He was reading purely from memory.

So I asked her, “What’s the harm?  If he reads at this level then what is the point of remediation?”  She explained to me the brain is very much like a computer.  Let’s say your computer is running a huge program.  It bogs down.  It isn’t running optimally, efficiently.  So, while your child finally catches up “reading” around 3rd or 4th grade most often and does generally well through middle school, you’ll find that he will hit a wall again in high school.  Why?  Well, when that brain is running that giant DECODING program with new vocabulary (for example, in Biology) then another program that runs in the background is bogged down. That program is COMPREHENSION.

These kids CAN read.  But when you ask them, “What did you read?” Often they either can’t tell you or they don’t pull as much information as they should have.  In schools you’ll hear from their teacher, “He reads well, but his comprehension isn’t where it should be.”  Ya’all this is textbook.

Let me stop here for a moment and explain something the way it was explained to me.  The dyslexic brain is THE brain to have.  It is the brain of military giants, political leaders, gifted scientists, inventors, mathemeticians, astronomers.  Before the existence of the printing press, these were the people who ruled the world.  They are often highly gifted.  As a matter of fact there are people who believe, reading aside, you could “diagnose” dyslexics based solely from their unique gifts.  I absolutely agree.

My oldest son is past his hurdle of learning to read.  It no longer stymies his academic prowess.  He is intellectually gifted.  It is pure joy to see him succeed now, as a junior in high school.  He has all the gifts that accompany that beautiful dyslexic brain and the reading challenges no longer hold him back.

I cannot encourage you enough – remediate the reading skills.  Don’t let a child question whether he is bright or not based on his reading ability.  Do not allow that to be the measure of him.  Most people who are dyslexic have elementary stories – tales of being in a separate “slow” reading group, being held back in school, being called upon to read aloud much to their shame and consternation.   As a matter of fact, science is currently estimating 50% of prison inmates are dyslexic.  How much did their early academic experience scar their outlook of themselves?

We CAN fix this.  Please join  your state’s Decoding Dyslexia page on Facebook so that you are aware of the legislation going through your state’s House of Representatives and Senate.  Be active.  Be an advocate for your child.

Today was supposed to be Part 2 on Dyslexia.  Forgive me, I’m easily distracted.

It is popular these days to revel in our shortcomings as homeschooling mothers.  I have plenty.  But I don’t believe we are to toss our hands in the air and say, “Well, this is the way I am.”  We aren’t to be stagnant, using our inborn personality traits to excuse a lack of intentional teaching and parenting in our roles as homeschooling mothers.  I am an extrovert… I can’t use this as a reason to flit from one activity to another, never intentionally and purposefully being at home.  And at the same time I have seen introverts use their own quirks to excuse not pouring themselves into their children.  We are not excused.  Recognizing our personality traits is good – through knowing ourselves well, we can recognize our strengths and weaknesses.

I was in Philippians this morning.  I think Paul’s prayer for the people of Philippi is such a great prayer to pray for our own children.
Philippians 1:9

And this is my prayers for you – that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth and insights so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of GOD.

Further in Chapter 1

If I am to go on living, it means fruitful labor for me.

I pray for each of us, as Christian homeschooling mothers, that we would rejoice in fruitful labor.  I am often mindful of John 15 and the the analogy between God as the gardener and true vine and us as part of the plant.  If we are to see fruit in our children, we should be mindfully tending the garden.  We must prune, fertilize, nurture our tender young plants so that they can grow strong and bear much fruit.  We must labor towards this end.

 

Dyslexia.

My life has been forever changed by dyslexia.

The irony isn’t lost on me.  I once believed dyslexia was  a concocted disability… And if it did exist then it was probably over-diagnosed.

God has a sense of humor.  And often from the biggest skeptics He molds the best advocates.

1 in 5

One in five people are dyslexic.  You know a dyslexic, actually, you know several.  That friend who writes emails and can never remember when to use their/they’re and were/where?  Yeah, she’s probably dyslexic.   Your kiddo that struggled mightily to learn to tie his shoes, never was good at nursery rhymes, and  struggled to learn to sound out CVC words? Probably dyslexic.  It’s okay though!  That kid really had a “light bulb” moment… Probably right around 4th grade.  All of a sudden that child could READ!

I had that child.  “He’s a boy,” I reasoned.  Late bloomer.  Active.  Bright.  And, sure enough, age 10/11, he began to read and read and read.  In one year he went from struggling with simple three and four letter words to reading The Hobbit.  All of my concerns were minimized, my belief that he would read in his own time was completely validated, life was grand.  And I did my part to spread the propaganda that kids learn to read on their own timeline and early struggles mean nothing but give them more time.

Shame. On. Me.

I’m sorry.  I was so anti-dyslexia that when a friend came to me and said, “Kelly, I really think you should have your son evaluated.  I see in him several signs of dyslexia,” I flashed her a partronizing smile.  (This was our second son.  He was about six at the time.) She further explained that one of her own children was dyslexic.  And in my ignorance I said, “Almost every homeschooling mother I know has thought she might have a dyslexic child.  If you just keep plugging at phonics, slow and steady, they read.”  I was confident.  Still, my beautiful friend was tenacious.  She insisted we go hear a wonderful speaker, Kelly Arnold, from the Northwest Dyslexia Center.  Kelly Arnold is the best speaker I’ve heard so far and I’ve heard a few, including Susan Barton twice.

I went.  I dragged my husband along.  I figured it was the only way I was going to be able to say, “We listened.  We’re confident in our path for him.”

About ten minutes into the lecture our world tilted.  The light began to go on and not only were we realizing our sons (plural) and one daughter had all the trademarks of being dyslexic, so did my husband… Right down to the “horror” stories of elementary school – being put into speech class, the slow reading group.  He despised being asked to read aloud.  He hated rading, didnt like spelling tests and, to this day, worries over spelling something wrong in a work email.  Keep ’em short, sweet, to the point, and there is less room for errors.

We walked away from that speaking engagement that evening with our eyes wide open.

And yet……….

And yet there is a tiny piece of you that wonders if you aren’t a bit of a hypochondriac.  Did you make the symptoms “fit” because it was convenient?  Because she was such a compelling speaker?   We did nothing.  As a matter of fact it was almost a year before we decided to have the boys professionally tested.  Separately, by the way.  We actually had them tested by two entirely different professionals so that I could be more certain of the results.  I was *not* a believer.

More tomorrow………