Tag Archives: teenagers

Open House, Open Mind

Today I went to the high school open house for both my boys. I was pleasantly surprised to meet teachers that were not off put by Landon’s IEP plan. In fact, a few of them assured me they were not only adaptable but readily available and more than happy to ensure his success.

Last year’s open house was fraught with a bit of frustration as Lan’s schedule hadn’t transferred from his county “assigned” school. We met teachers that ultimately would not teach him. And then there were those first year of high school jitters, both mine and his.

Today Lan confidently lead me through the hallways. He hugged a few of his teachers from last year, all of whom were amazed how much he’d grown. He eagerly waved and shouted to kids he knew. He quickly left me to sit on a bench and talk to a pretty girl. Where did that shy kid go?

The beginning of every school year has always been fraught with anxiety and a bit of dread. For me more so than Lan. I’ve worried about bullies, standardized exams, ambivalent teachers and probably a host of other things.

But this year, dare I hope we’ve reached a turning point of sorts…can I finally exchange my fears for a faith that everything will be just fine?

Can I for once just live in the now moment, count the blessings of a wonderful counselor, empathetic teachers, kind students and the new-found bit of confidence and maturity that has finally surfaced in these last few weeks of summer?

No matter what we may face this year, I don’t dare deluded myself into the notion of a problem free 180 days of school. But dare I hope and even expect that previous lessons learned will give us the experience to be proactive instead of reactive; will my prayers and faith precede the proper people or rather angels in disguise to help us along our way?

This year I will share my child’s optimism without the threat of “what if?” looming behind us. This year I look forward to my child branching out and pushing boundaries that don’t include me. This year…I am receptive to new ideas, new ventures and the possibility something good is on the horizon. This year, I will abide in the hope that God has a purpose and a plan for my child and I don’t have to orchestrate/dictate/regulate every detail of his life.

This year…will be a very good year. For both of us.

“Behold, I [am] the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing to hard for me?”
Jeremiah 32:27 KJV

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Lessons Learned!

“Those who are planted in the house of the LORD Shall flourish in the courts of our God,” Psalms 92:12

Tomorrow marks the last day of the school year. I began this blog in August upon Lan’s entry into high school. He was nervous. I was scared.

Ever thankful for God’s blessings along our way, I was still anxious and filled with trepidation about this new reality.

Well, we made it! One year down, three to go.

Lan’s last exam is today. He is doing well and should pass it without any problem. We are still waiting on test results from one EOCT (End of Course Test) for biology which is required to earn credit for the class. I am ever hopeful for a good result.

Since this blog practically began with his first day of school, I figured I’d share lessons I’ve learned this year.

Lesson number one, God really IS in control.

At the onset of the school year the huge crowds of kids were overwhelming. The para-pro assigned to assist Lan to his classes (the campus is large with several buildings) actually met my husband years ago.

I’m sure my husband had no idea of the role this gentleman would play in our lives. I am convinced the prior association worked to our advantage. The gentleman not only did his “job” but went above and beyond keeping us posted on how our guy was making out throughout the day. We deliberately sent Lan to this school because we knew the principal and counselor well. The para was an “extra” God through into the mix!

Lan didn’t require his help for long and after two weeks navigated on his own. Yet, I am forever grateful. It was one less thing I had to worry think about.

In addition, Lan had the same geography teacher who taught my oldest son last year. My husband established a great relationship with her then having no idea it would benefit us this year. God does order our steps!

Lesson number two, my kid is capable!

Lan’s teachers watched him come out of his nervous shell and become quite out-spoken! During the last IEP meeting, his math teacher played a video of him before the class explaining an algebraic problem and the steps to solve it.

My husband and I were floored. I’m convinced this kid has an alter-ego. His confidence increased under the care of supportive teachers. I suspect his charming demeanor didn’t hurt either.

Most significantly, Lan made new friends. Real friends. I often thought about him sitting alone at lunch. And for a while, he did.

But slowly, very slowly, he would mention who he ate with at lunch. One friend from middle school would join him on “odd” days when they shared the same schedule.

A new friend from the magnet school starting eating with him also. An upperclassman we know joined in “to watch out for him.” More kids from band class were eventually mentioned. Just last week, Lan told me he skipped eating lunch to sit with his friends and talk instead. How about that?

We have had a few “blips” along the way. However, Lan learned from them and wasn’t defeated. He is no longer upset I didn’t allow him to attend the school he is zoned for. He’s found friends at his school. I asked him recently how he felt about this first year of high school. I finally got the reaction I’d hoped for, “I like it.”

 Lesson number three, Iet go a little.

I am a micro-manage mom. I’m ever working on that, trying to allow both kids room to succeed and fail.  DSC_6962 (2)

Some lessons you only learn the hard way. Lan’s improving grades boosted his confidence. When he fails to study or prepare, he now feels the pain.

His social skills improved because I’m allowing more freedom to learn what works and what doesn’t. At the awards ceremony he didn’t sit with me or my husband. He founds his friends. At the band banquet my husband laughed that Lan quickly left him in a cloud of dust and had a ball.

Without me hovering, he can relax and figure it out. Lan will get the chance to relax for an entire week of summer camp at Clemson University. Last year when he asked about going away like his brother, I was like “not happening” in my brain. Well, a year later he’ll be off on his own adventure.

Sometimes I want to intervene but God says no, let Lan figure it out. And let Him guide my child.

I can’t always be there for Lan. But God can. I trust Him Who can do more for my child than I am able to provide.

Lesson number four, sometimes I just need to get out-of-the-way and let God be God. DSC_6420

 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Special Mothers for Special Kids

Last week over at Devotions by Chris,  Chris wrote about several mothers in the Bible who allowed their faith to push them to do extraordinary things.  I believe there is no mother more significant than Mary, the mother of our Savior Jesus Christ. First of all she was a regular girl who found herself in a situation she never imagined.

Just… like… us.

Can you imagine being an unmarried virgin receiving the news “you are going to conceive the Messiah?!” No pressure there!

I’m confident at some point Mary struggled with her responsibility. I’ve struggled with mine.  I thought there was no room for missteps.  

Mary and Joseph lost their twelve-year-old son and found him three days later! Three days! Can you imagine you are responsible for raising the Messiah and you lose Him!? God did not open up the heavens and rebuke Mary and Joseph for their carelessness. Likewise, we should cut ourselves some slack when we fail in things far less significant.

Another lesson is that Mary saw the potential within her child. It is up to us to do the same. John 2:9 describes one of the first miracles Jesus performed. He turned water into wine. In verse four Jesus says “my hour has not yet come.” However, Mary had other ideas. She told the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it.” Upon His mother’s insistence, Jesus had the servants fill pots with water which He later turned into wine.

As parents it is our responsibility to speak to the potential in our kids. This may mean IEPs, tutors, therapy, doctor’s visits and whatever it takes to pull out the potential we know is there. Many doubted Mary and we will doubt us as well, however we must stand firm on what God says. Following her example, we must insist and persist.

We can also follow Mary’s example of receiving God’s grace for her assignment. Mary was forced to witness her child tortured and vilified for the sake of the world. The problems our children face are upsetting to us as well. But we are available for our children. Mary could not help her child; the crucifixion was something Jesus had to do alone. We are available and able through Christ to meet the needs of our kids.

Mary was there for her child until the end. A mother’s love will do that…follow through until the end. God allows us the same grace. Always remember, the third day. Mary endured witnessing her son’s death only to find joy in the Resurrection. Sometimes we may feel like our path is overwhelming, unbeatable or even insurmountable. Many people get stuck on the “first day” or the death of their dream when faced with the realities of parenting and the challenges their children face.

On the “second day,” grief for what could have been keeps some parents from looking forward to what could be. Things often look dark. There are often reports and diagnosis that confuse and condemn. Dreams for the future seem impossible.

Yet thank God, He makes the impossible, possible. If Mary’s story teaches us anything, it is to stick in there until the end. What looks like the end isn’t necessarily so. Hang in there with your child, hang on to what God has promised you.

Every child has some special need. Some needs are more obvious than others. Some are revealed early in life. Some won’t manifest for years later. God equips us to do what we have been called to do. Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus.

We were chosen by God to parent the children He has blessed us with as well.

“Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.” Mark 9:37 NKJV

Beauty in the Muck

There have been times in life that I was so busy anticipating potential dangers, that I failed to see the beauty right around me. Last week while working in my garden I was keeping such a keen eye out for snakes (I loathe snakes) that I almost missed the beautiful butterfly in my midst. Sometimes when we are so focused on one negative, it blinds us to the greater number of positives right in front of us.

As the parent of a kid on the spectrum, I have on occasion caught myself anticipating what “could happen” all the while oblivious to what is happening.

Lan will complete his first year of high school in just a few weeks. We are now in the midst of “test anxiety” though trying hard to keep it at a minimum. Failure to pass these exams will mean a summer of trying to restore these credits. “Credit restoration” would play havoc with summer travel plans let alone the struggle of shuttling him back and forth to school.

Lan’s teachers are proud of his work in class. He does better than many of the neuro-typicals in his classes. Yet, Lan has never excelled at standardized testing. Challenging for most, to a kid with attention deficits these exams are a very steep uphill battle.

As an ever recovering control freak, I fight my fears realizing his exams and other things lie well beyond my control. Instead of focusing on the pessimistic what ifs, I am ever searching and sometimes struggling to count my blessings now.

I am grateful this first year of high school has been a success. We had no traumatic events as I’d feared the beginning of the year. Lan’s teachers have been receptive and accommodating. Many students are quite kind to him and often act on his behalf. Lan has made a few friends. He has thrived under the direction of his band teacher. Lan is no longer nervous about the huge crowds and even learned to maneuver them well. As of last week, he no longer meets the requirements for speech therapy services.

In the muck of IEPs, core curriculum and teenage angst, I can appreciate how far we’ve come when I take time to look for the beauty.

I was once so accustomed to looking for potential snakes (bullies, indifferent teachers, additional diagnoses) that I failed to see let alone appreciate the beauty that God poured before me. Now, I am ever grateful and continually search out the beauty in life.

If you feel mired down in your muck, I challenge you to look up from where comes my help. We don’t have to walk this journey alone. We don’t even have to orchestrate every step along the way.

God is willing, available and more than able.

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30 NKJV

“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3 NKJV

 

Time and Transition

transition: “a change from one state or condition to another”   “movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another” Merriam Webster

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end,” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV

I birthed this blog the first of August when my youngest entered high school. Now with less than a month before school is out, first year jitters have been replaced with a spirit of perseverance, faith and gratitude.  transitions 1

Lan has evolved from nervous freshman to actively seeking out his friends. He has moved away from the kid sitting alone at lunch to having a steady rotation of friends to eat with and interact. Surprisingly, most of these kids aren’t even in his classes.

Friday, when my husband picked both boys up from the high school, Cam made a telling remark. He said once people saw him with Lan they kept asking, “are you Lan’s brother?” Apparently, Lan’s social vine extends farther than any of us realized.

It was quite the eye opener. For years, Lan has always been the other brother, often falling under the shadow of big brother Cam. Now, in high school, the tables are turning a bit and the light is now shining on Lan.

Lan surprised me today with news that he will receive an award at Thursday’s end of the year awards ceremony. We have no idea what he is receiving an award for. He has worked extremely hard on his school work but an A student he is not. However, Lan’s tenacity to put in the extra time and effort has endeared him to most of his teachers.

A school year fraught with uncertainties looks to be ending on a good note. We have traded Georgia CRCTs (criterion referenced competency tests) for EOCs (end of course exams) so test anxiety ever looms. Yet receiving this award, whatever it may be is progress. It is one more step in the right direction, one step forward in personal accountability, one acknowledgement of doing the best you can, no matter what that best might be.  transitions title

It’s has been quite a year of change. Insecurities vanquished. Challenges met head on. Bullies thwarted. Faith in people… restored.

There has been much personal growth and maturity from fragile bud to longer lasting leaf. Lan made out just fine.

I’m referring to me.

Do My Shoes Match?

As Lan is making it along in his first year of high school he is becoming ever so aware of other people’s perceptions. Somewhere along the line he has matured away from the kid who wanted to wear a sweater in the summer and shorts in the winter into someone with a true desire to be “handsome.” His word, not mine!

I find this kind of comical. Teenagers are often very self-aware and insecure about their looks, dress and a number of other things. Lan has for the most part been oblivious to all of this…until now.

He wants his shoes to match his clothes. He has even taken to swiping some of his older brother’s “cooler” clothes. No big deal for most but I am proud of him for his increased awareness of the people and things around him and his at urge to at some extent blend into the “normalcy” that surrounds him.

I have at times often wondered through the years when some major “turning point” would occur. I’ve prayed about certain things and then forgot that I prayed about them having prayed so much for one thing or another.

Progress begins in steps. Lan continues to make gains, some large and some small.  God faithfully answers my prayers, even those long forgotten.

Simple things like dressing himself appropriately and other social cues that were once so foreign to him are steadily creeping into his consciousness.

I still have a long list of things I’d like to see Lan progress in. I will admit dressing appropriately isn’t even in the top twenty. However, I am grateful for this accomplishment even though I almost “missed it,” not realizing he hadn’t asked me or his father for clothes in months! We always picked his clothes out for him but somewhere along the line he began doing it for himself and doing a very good job at that!

Sometimes our minds are so fixated on the “major tasks” we are trying to carry out that we miss those minor milestones along the way. I am grateful for my blessings, truly celebrating all the gains and successes we have had this year. My every prayer has not been answered, but I have hope and faith that God is not done with us yet!

We are blessed beyond measure even as the ASD hovers in the background. I won’t allow “autism” to rob us of our peace or joy. It only serves as a point of reference for where we were to where we are now.

We are blessed in spite of diagnoses, IEPs, and a few social hiccups.

I’m grateful for gains socially, mentally, and even physically this year. Lan is building up both mind and body going with his dad to “la fitness” as he calls it.  This child who was once weak and so uncoordinated is now hanging tough with his dad on the treadmill, elliptical and bench press. I never could have imagined this years ago!

Lan has friends at school who are nice to him. His new school is no longer a source of anxiety. High school has at least been embarked upon even if not fully conquered.

So much to be grateful for!  Too many blessings to count. God is faithful even when I fail. He lifts us up when we are weak. He has provided us with angels here on earth.

Celebrate this season giving thanks for blessings large and small. I am grateful even for those small things that don’t really matter in life.

I’m grateful his shoes actually match!

Progress Report!

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things [are] noble, whatever things [are] just, whatever things [are] pure, whatever things [are] love, whatever things [are] of good report, if [there is] any virtue and if [there is] anything praiseworthymediate on these things,” Philippians 4:8 NKJV

Last week both boys brought home their mid-term progress reports from school. Lan called me while I was at work with a slight tremor in his voice. His report wasn’t awful but it wasn’t great either. His grade in two major classes dropped and he was well aware I would not be pleased.

He rattled off his grades tentatively and I succinctly told him I knew he could do better and would do better. He wasn’t grounded. I reminded him that as long as he did his very best I would always be pleased with his work.

Now, that is a huge change from the “old me” of just a couple of years ago. Both boys could definitely put a little more effort into their schoolwork but it isn’t a matter of life and death. Having received a bad report in matters of life and death has definitely put things in perspective.

It is two years ago now that my oldest son, the one without an ASD diagnosis, went to the doctor. He had a funky skin rash that began in October. It gradually spread. Nothing would cure it.

In November, my husband took him to the dermatologist, the earliest appointment he could get. The doctor very matter of fact admitted she didn’t know what it was. I appreciated her honesty, but I thought that was rather odd. I got a funny feeling in my gut, the kind you want to dismiss, but just won’t quite go away.

I was expecting them to leave the appointment with prescriptions for antibiotics and a topical cream. Instead, my oldest left with a small plug of skin taken out of his arm. The biopsy was sent off for analysis.

It wasn’t until two days after Christmas I found myself on the phone with the physician who sat with my son and husband in her office as she explained the diagnosis, a diagnosis that affects one in five million people. My husband was wise enough to have her call me as his head was reeling. After the dermatologist ran through the possible scenarios (including chemotherapy) I vividly remember standing dumbfounded in my kitchen trying to decipher the boatload of information that had been dumped on me. I remember crying and walking around in circles but I also remember very vividly screaming as loud as I could “I will not receive a bad report!”

I heard the dermatologist. I respected her opinion. But I wasn’t going to receive that finality in my spirit in regard to my son. And God heard me.

I prayed. I solicited the prayers of family and friends who had their entire churches and Sunday school classes praying for my child. I knew that whatever we had to endure, we would get through it.

Thankfully, we had only to endure a battery of tests. His skin was affected but not his internal organs. His brain was fine. We didn’t get the final “all clear” until February. It was a harrowing ordeal for any parent. I was forced to examine if I’d put so much energy into one child to the neglect and detriment of the other.

So many questions, but God is faithful. We learned some things through our experience. We endured. Matured.

That experience allows me to put my “bad reports” whatever they are in perspective. Two years later and that time is still so fresh in my mind. I don’t want to ever forget it. I learned things aren’t always as they seem. God doesn’t want us to have faith in what we see or hear but instead in His power.

During that trying time I thought about all the miracles God had done for my family. I thought about the positives, the joys and undeserved blessings. I meditated on God’s grace toward us every time a negative thought would try to break me. It wasn’t easy, but a very deliberate decision on my part. God is pleased when we look at Him instead of our obstacles.

Numbers 13-14 teaches of how eight of the ten spies Moses sent out brought back a “bad report.” They could not see the potential in the land promised to them by God, only the enemies who possessed it. Furthermore, they gave a bad report to the other Israelites causing them to long for Egypt, the very place they had been in bondage.

How often do we look back to the familiar, even when it is to our detriment, because our present obstacles look insurmountable?

Only Caleb and Joshua, the spies who gave the “good report,” made it into the Promised Land with the descendants of those who died. God was so displeased with the Israelites’ lack of faith; He caused them to die in the wilderness. These are the same people who witnessed miracles that freed them and walked through the Red Sea! These were the same people who ate manna from Heaven! These same people would not allow the miracles of their past to fuel the faith for their future.

I don’t want to make that same mistake.

So, we may have hit a bump in the road with grades but I’m by no means accepting it as the “end all” for either child. I have faith in what God can do with them and in them. I have witnessed miracles with both my children. I may not have all the answers but I am confident that I don’t have to.

I look at the neatly typed papers from the county office and see them for what they are…merely progress reports. Not a definition of my parenting skills or a proclamation of my children’s future. I once would have been infuriated with less than the best. I am now… patiently waiting. We are all progressing toward God’s plans for us.

I am not going to analyze, criticize, and run all of us ragged as I used to.  Instead, I think about the great gains Lan has made thus far this year, successes I didn’t anticipate so soon. I’m proud of how Cam has been able to handle his classes along with the rigors of marching band. I focus on the good.

God’s got it, whatever my “it” is at any given moment.  Only His report truly matters!