Wednesday, April 17

The thin veneer

Spring break was celebrated with most of us home for nine glorious days together.  I usually think nine is a big number, but at the end of those days I realized just how few and small nine really is.  I wanted more!

The weather was absolutely amazing.  Even though it was the first week of April, we had a few days of bright sunshine and actual warmth here in the northwest.

There is a thin veneer that separates a family from the world outside.  A coating of values and morales.  It is maintained thru family dinners, conversations, time spent together, and knowing where and who we are as a family.  The veneer wears down after awhile and suddenly you find your family becoming more a part of the culture and society and less resembling like the family that you purpose for.  So in addition to partially painting our home over spring break, I also wanted to reclaim my family and thicken the veneer!

As a mom I've long realized that I cannot avoid exposing my children to the negative aspects of the world.  For the small boys, I limit their tv watching to only recorded programs that don't have commercials and select what movies they watch.  I'm involved with their school schedule and know the curriculum so that I have a sense of what "I want them to learn and see" is there each day.  For my young adults I purpose daily to talk to them and really focus on the conversation.  Where are their hearts.  What are their eyes pointing toward.  Is in negative?

In a more positive direction, I can teach them the "truer" forms of satisfaction that our culture and society cannot deliver to them.  The sense of accomplishment, the giving up of 'self' in service to others and the joy of relationships.

The sense of accomplishment for hard work.  We accomplished this together as cleaning barn stalls and a hen house instill not only larger muscles, but an immediate sense of accomplishment and ability to persever thru the trials and yuk of the mess in the meanwhile.  We moved Hannah into her new apartment which she shares with her sweet roomie from her dorm.  They now have a MUCH quieter place to study, eat, and relax!  Both girls are very involved in
their church children's programs and that as we all know is a lot of hard work. Liam's hard work at soccer practices is paying off for his increased skill set.  Nate just finished the Lavaman in Kona HI the week prior and beat his father's time, a sense of accomplishment bar none.  Tommy's hard work with pre literacy skills is shining and his personal sense of pride in his own skills has never been higher.
The reward of serving others.  Tommy and I enjoyed spending Friday after volunteering at Down syndrome outreach of Whatcom County.  An amazing group of folks who so sincerely care about people with Down syndrome.  As a family we have volunteered alongside them for about five years, giving a couple hundred hours of volunteer hours each year and having so much fun doing it.  A few of us ran a dinner meal to friends too that week.  Just different ways to serve others and remind them they are important pieces to life!

The joy of engaging relationally.  The little boys and I got some quick take out food after soccer practice and escaped to the beach for dinner. With driftwood for a table, the sound of waves pulling rocks and rolling them back to sea, a beautiful sunny break and the heavy smell of wonderful salt water we dined just the three of us. I love parenting my littles and showing them how to simply live.  Going on date nights with my hubby happened on spring break!  A picinic with Hannah and just me where we talked and talked in the sunshine.  Family sit down dinners.  Reading chapter books aloud.  Reading from the bible.  All wonderful ways we increased joy of getting to know each other even more!

A sense of accomplishment from hard work, the reward of serving others, and the joy of engaging relationally.  All these are better pointers to the satisfaction of knowing God.  Not the easy negative stuff that exists in society and culture that looks like you "want" and would "make you happy".   In the bible, Paul taught what he prayed for.  And although I'm looking at my next career to be as a teacher, I would fall far short from Paul's teachings.  I look intentionally to share with my family how to pray and teach them how to mold their attitudes, relationships, sense of self, what they worry about and where they find contentment.  I demonstrate and teach to them exactly what I believe their value systems should contain and I pray for their discernment as they go from me and face the world daily. 
Polishing the thin veneer.  It's what I did on spring break.  How 'bout you?

Wednesday, April 10

Dear Ferndale School District

After a long walk.  Iced coffee.  Watching Whatcom Creek move quickly to the point it meets the bay....and looking at the tree blossoms.... and a tearful melt down, just keeping it real, sorry elementary school staff.  Colin and I decided to submit this letter and the correct form for a student transfer so that hopefully, Liam will continue to attend the same elementary as his brother.  As his twin.  Two boys that spend nearly every waking moment together laughing and wrestling, are due to be split between two school buildings come fall.  Please think good thoughts, pray, meditate, whatever you do.... keep our little bundles of unending energy at the same school.  For their own comfort and benefit.  Siblings need to be at the same elementary.  And a little of my own sanity to keep only one elementary to "impose" my volunteering on.
Six months ago I thought I would be a good support for "those" parents upset about redistricting, "those" parents that couldn't deal with change, ha ha, I'm "that" parent now.  Life is so fickle. 


April 10, 2013

Ferndale School District
PO Box 698
Ferndale, Washington 98248

Thank you for the letters on the location for our twin sons’ assigned schools for the following year. We had attended one of your boundary presentations and kept up on your website with each of the task force notes and outcomes. We are grateful to be educating our children in a district that is so transparent and collaborative with parents. Thank you!

As a family, we have purposed to keep our twins together in the same elementary school. Although they attend different classrooms based on their appropriate educational needs, this decision has made life easier to attend school community type events: movie nights, participate in PTO, support field trips by chaperoning, attend birthday parties for classmates, enjoy the fall Cascadia carnival as a family, and just be an active part of an elementary “community”. Last year our transfer request was approved to have the boys attend Cascadia for kindergarten. We guess that maintaining our family involvement in an elementary community will be difficult after reading the letters that state the twins are split between two schools.

We recognize that Liam, as our typically developing child, should be afforded an education with peers in his home assigned school which would be Eagleridge. He has a very typical friendship group at Cascadia Elementary and we support him in birthday parties for friends, movie nights there, and in general we support him on field trips and teacher support on occasion in the classroom . Liam enjoys his twin brother Tommy and sincerely seeks him out at recess for FUN and sibling type supports.

We know that Tommy, as our child with significant developmental support needs, has his appropriate educational needs met in assignment to the Life Skills Classroom at Cascadia Elementary. We have been blessed with the most amazing support team there, seeing Tommy become an active learner has been an amazing educational feat, and would not wish to change that elementary assignment. Tommy’s support is made easier when he is on the same bus as his twin, it is comforting of course to be able to see your sibling while you ride the bus, especially your twin brother who you spend almost every waking minute with. Tommy enjoys seeking Liam out at recess for FUN.

The twins have attended Cascadia Elementary since January 2010, starting their education with Early Intervention Services. At six years old they have flourished together at recess seeking each other out, on the bus ride together encouraging each other, and at elementary events such as the fall carnival together having fun in “their” school community. Like all siblings, most of the time, they truly enjoy being together, but as twins they really enjoy seeing each other and having occasional proximity which the same school provides.

Please don’t separate them. We appreciate your review of these transfer requests is tough and you need to consider so many variables: student counts per building as well as your teachers and support resources per building. We know it’s a tough decision. Please don’t separate them. Thanks for considering! Colin & Sandi McMillan

Sunday, April 7

"Everything is perfect when you are a liar"

I'm a huge fan of Kelly Oxford.  Huge.

She is a stay at home mom in Canada, been blogging forever and raising her three kids. 

So when I saw her new book,  "Everything is perfect when you are a liar" , I knew I just had to read!

I like her because her form of comedy is satire.  Satire.  And when done correctly, or heck just anyway shape or form, it's hilarious.

Comedy that allows a recognition, "out loud" that we are SO much less than perfect.  So much.  A hilariously written, self declaration of all of our short comings.  Those thoughts that usually happen quickly and silently in our brains when we recognize and start to stress over our failures.

"I hope the meaning to life isn't something we're all going to hate" was one of her top tweets from a few years back.  I don't tweet, but found that line hilarious and on my mind for sure lately.

A few weeks back I participated in an evening event "Hope and Help" where Parent 2 Parent hosted what seemed like a hundred parents, to discusss a new book "Optomistic Parent" and ways that us as parents raising children and young adults with special needs can self care for ourselves, take care of US while taking care of our families.  It was an amazing event, met so many new people and was inspired by a few stories from families.  I was reminded when a behaviorist was speaking that HUMOR was one of the ways we can "self care". 

Six years ago.  Once I delivered the twins, and finally left Seattle with a "new and improved (repaired)" Tommy, or as the insurance company refered to... you have reached the cap on the plan for him,  I will never forget meeting one of my earliest "new" friends here in Bellingham.  Gretchen.  I had stopped by the Mother Baby Center and was struggling to select a breastfeeding pump because, well, feeding twins becomes a wee bit of a mechanical adventure of sorts.  And this lady knelt down next to our twin baby carriers...she was a complete stranger.. and she was fascinated with Tommy.  She introduced herself, heard our story... and trust me Colin and I went on and on and on with our story because we were only back in B'ham for about two hours and sooooo lonely... and then we went on and on and on some more.....and then she smiled... and she calmly said her son has Down syndrome too. 

I will never forget, she didn't say he had Ds when she saw that Tommy did.  Rather she concentrated on our story.  On our relationship.  On how lonely and isolated we were.  She asked questions.  She offered support.  And then she shared our commonality. 

And then.... she made a funny statement about how there were more of "us" in Bellingham and she would arrange a meeting, etc.  I had never seen a person with Down syndrome in all my years of living in Bellingham/Ferndale.  It was the first moment of satire between us in that I didn't know or believe there were more of "us" in the county.  Gretchen was funny.  She made it okay to laugh.  She validated ANY question.  Any frustration.  And when I met with the "other families", they were the same, HAPPY and willing to talk and laugh about the situations we were now enjoying.  Kristy and Kati and Amy and more.  The volume of black humor, of satire, of retelling our strange stories was, and thankfully is to this day on our "girls nights out", tremendous.

Sometimes it's hard to ask for help from a friend, or talk about some "strange" thought, but in retelling a story with satire it becomes vivid and easy and by making it verbal or written, you can get it out of your mind.  Getting it OUT of YOUR mind.  And it becomes liberating to just get it out in the open.  And usually it can just be laughed off.  Trust me, some BIG stuff, I've been there, can be laughed off.

A huge form of self care can be just talking, openly communicating, what is on your mind.  I can remember being so depressed over a thought of wanting to leave Seattle Children's and just drive away.  Just drive.  And not stop.  And it wasn't until I talked about those thoughts that I realized I was so much more similar to everyone else in their thoughts of wanting, on a seldom occasion, to walk away. 

I should mention to all those with their jaws open right now, I would never walk away.  But I would be lying if I said everything is perfect or was perfect.  Being isolated and sleeping at Seattle Children's in a "sleep room" capsule and not being able to hold your baby and bond with him and just watch all the horrible procedures being done for weeks upon end.... it makes your MIND want to run.

Not my heart though. Not your heart either.

Taking care of myself, my mind and heart, thru laughter and friends and sharing my story and current thoughts are the biggest ways that this mommy takes care of herself.  Reading Kelly Oxford.  Watching Saturday Night Live religiously.  Going to "The Upfront Theater" to watch live comedy.  Talking to friends, or heck whomever will listen, and trying to be funny while telling our story is what keeps me sane. 

On another subject, I'm going to try and find time to download the photos from my phone.  Some fun stuff happened in my 9 "stay at home days" with my entire family of six.  It was one of our best "stay cations". 

Tommy Adventures