Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Developmental Changes

 Lizzie woke up grumpy this morning.  Normally this is a horrible thing - it means a day spent soothing her and trying to keep her moderately happy.  After all I can't cater to Elizabeth in everything. . . that isn't right or fair to the other two girls.  Plus Elizabeth has proven she can chill herself out when it's been a bad day.  So I cancelled everything.  And I do mean everything. 
Our typical routine means on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday that we have Miss Lindsay over to do preschool with Beka.  Cancelled.  Usually on Wednesday nights I go to Praise Team Practice - CANCELLED!  I set Chris with Sarah to go to the pediatrician for her well check because he is not as patient with Elizabeth as I am and I really would rather that I not come home to find her in tears and so over stimulated it's not funny.   I also don't think it's right to leave her with Sarah when she wakes up grumpy because even if she is calm for me, something always happens after I leave and I come home to find her aggitated and upset when I get home.  

As luck would have it, I was smart to do this.  Lizzie took her pills, got dressed, ate breakfast, and settled down for a day of watching Science videos (TV soothes a lot of kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder), she snuggled up under some blankets on the couch and was quite happy.  Beka on the other hand woke up bright and cheery and that's about all she did today except whine, scream, and cry ALL DAY LONG! 

I am not a huge encourager of whining.  In fact, it gets our girls sent to their room until they can calm themselves down enough to be in public.  But not today.  Today was spent snuggling, consoling, and a lot of time in her room on her bed.  Elizabeth after taking her medication chilled out and did fairly well for me.   I was more than pleasantly surprised. 

The little girl who used to not be fit to go outside or to be taken in public can now relax herself and help herself take a few deep breaths to help calm herself down  The child who used to bang her head until she had huge bruises on her forehead now can sit quietly on her bed and read a book.  Very rarely do we have meltdowns, at least not as often as before.  And this has become new since I started home schooling her.  She's not in class now and overstimulated, she is able to remove herself now with a little prompting to go and read a book until she calmer now.   I am so proud of her I could burst 

Now to tackle Beka and her meltdowns.   It's interesting that Beka is the one who meltdowns now and she is our typical child.  That means she doesn't have an ASD or Elizabeth's issues.  She's relatively happy, healthy, and just as smart as her two older sisters.  I will be so glad when she hits a maturity growth spurt and we move past the whining phase.

I hope you all have a good week.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Charter/Magnet Schools

Washington Congress is currently talking about creating charter schools in order to help students.  Some people argue, why are we spending this money?  Some people think it's a great idea, and some people don't know what a charter school is. . . as a mom who moved here a year ago from a state that has charter or magnet schools as we called them in Wichita, KS I hope to share with you why I think Washington Congress is absolutely right on target about the important role charter schools can have our students in Washington.

I was first introduced to the idea of looking at Magnet schools by my friend Trisha Carlson.  Her nieces attended magnet schools and had great success academically.  I started checking into them and I talked with my aunt and uncle who had sent both of my very bright cousins to magnet schools.  Dacia had excelled, but magnet schools weren't really for Adam - he is doing other amazing things now with his life and it just wasn't a good fit for him.  But for both of my older daughters it was a great choice and would also be a good choice for our youngest daughter. 

So let me tell you about Wichita and how it worked for our charter schools.  In the middle of January the school district would hold a fair at Century 21 and parents could come with or without their children and look at the different choices in schools.  There is are elementary schools that specialize in physical fitness, one specializes in multimedia, another is a fine arts elementary school some focus on computers and helping students become better at school period.  It's the same for middle schools.  Each magnet/charter school has a motto.  Parents meet with teachers from the schools, they look at what they offer and then fill out paperwork and get three different choices in case their first choice is not available.     Sadly, there is only one charter high school and it's not in a good neighborhood but it's there.   By mid April all applications for charter schools must be turned in and it isn't first come first serve - they hold a lottery.  Unless your child is different - for Elizabeth she was a shoe-in for Spaght because she was white and it is 98 percent black.  We liked the school so much that we had decided to place our youngest daughter, Rebekah there too but we moved to Washington before she reached school age. 

Sarah's middle school was a Fine Arts Media Magnet Middle School.  . .  it was challenging and incorporated fine arts into many of her classes.   It also made her work very hard to do well in school - that's the other thing about charter schools - they are accelerated schools and have a high standard for their students.  And most charter schools have students there because their parents are hands on and want what is best for their children's education. . . i.e. more success because they have support at school and at home.  

Elizabeth's elementary school started as a Gifted Magnet Elementary School - Sam S. Spaght and their first motto was "Every child is gifted."   After the first year though, it became a Multimedia Magnet School; they used cameras, video machines, and computers to help the students learn.  Lizzie loved the smart board - it was one of her favorite things about school.     It was tough and challenging, but they had a great special needs team which worked out perfectly for Elizabeth because when I chose it we didn't yet have an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.  The team at her school was AMAZING!!!  I would recommend her school to anyone who had a special needs child.  The teachers are great and really invested in the children. . .  which brings me to my next point.

The teachers in charter schools in Wichita really work the kids - they also find ways to help them learn the materials.   They have smaller classrooms as well so they can help more students and especially those who are struggling.   They care because they know that the majority of the students who attend the charter schools are there because their families want something better for them.    They also tend to have principals who care about the students.  Especially at Spaght, the principal Mrs. Sherwood made it a point to get to know Elizabeth and all of the students and when they succeeded she offered prizes to them.   She genuinely cared about the students and most of the principals I met at charter schools are the same. .

I know it seems like it might be expensive, but charter schools offer several things that Washington really needs to consider.

1.  You get out of your children what you put into them.  If you want your children to succeed in school then investing in charter schools with accelerated programs is a great way to teach our children many skills. 

2. Charter schools generally offer smaller classrooms - some of them are neighborhood magnet schools which means if you live in the neighborhood, then your children can attend without worrying about the lottery and getting their children into a good school.  The neighborhood charter schools have larger classrooms, but the other principals still apply to caring teachers, and parents who are really invested in their children's education.

3.  Charter schools are a good way to make general public school classrooms smaller.  They also offer busing in Wichita if you live 2.5 miles for the charter school your child is picked to attend (assuming you win the lottery).   If you don't live that far from the school, then you have to drive your kids to and from school, but really is that such a hardship if it means a better education for your children?

4.  Charter schools can be geared individually towards students with special skill sets.  Wichita has a computer magnet and a science and math magnet school to name a few choices.  One middle school has JROTC in it and several high schools in Wichita offer an very accelerated program for students who are very smart and want to get into ivy league colleges. 


These are all a few reasons why you should consider supporting charter schools in Washington.  Right now Kansas is ranked #9 nationwide in education.  Washington is currently sitting at #19 - but I know you can change that.   Of the many things I've learned in the first year of living in Washington it is that many parents want what is best for their children.   I know you have some programs, but the truth is, especially in Everett that charter schools would help our students tremendously.   It also might be a good idea for the teachers to start attending special education conferences in other states that are in the top ten for special needs - Wichita, KS is currently ranked #4 in special needs education.  Learning from them and encouraging your teachers and raising their pay would also be a good idea.  Right now a football player makes millions of dollars, but teachers are paid poorly and have to deal with students who have poor parenting at home - they buy a lot of supplies out of their own pockets - but I might be biased since I have aunts and a single mother who were all educators. 

I hope that you all have a good week and God Bless.
In Christ,
Maureen







Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Memories

 When I was taking Human Development, we discussed the different stages of life.  Infancy, Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood, and those lovely later years when we look back on our lives.
 When people get to a certain point in their life, they've retired, the children have grown up and left home, life is quieter and calmer for them.  This is the time when people tend to look back on their lives and think back over their lives.  Our professor, Dr. Vera Hance was talking to us about people who either have many regrets or they are happy and feel they've made some mistakes, but have chosen more wisely than poorly over their lives. 
 That class stuck with me.  And while I don't plan to pursue Psychology after finishing up my Bachelor's degree (it will happen some day - probably when Beka is a little bit older and can do school more independently), I am glad I took many of Psychology classes.  I learned a lot, but that lesson - the lesson of think about what type of decisions do you want to be with you when you are older and looking back?  That class has deeply shaped the choices I make. 
 It shaped my choice when I had to choose, stay at my job or leave it so I could give Elizabeth my undivided attention because she wasn't doing very well while Chris was deployed in 2004.  At the time I didn't know she had PDD-NOS.  I only knew my baby was falling apart, I couldn't keep child care, because she was so busy and unhappy - people just couldn't keep her.  I had to make a choice and this was my choice - I needed to be at home.  I would have to face God some day and I needed to know I could tell him I did what I could to help her.  So I left my job with very little warning, and I explained to them that I had to be at home - Elizabeth was falling apart, she needed me more than Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines did.  They could always find another Cruise Specialist, but I couldn't take back the time I had with Elizabeth when it was over. 
 I spent a few years working through the guilt I felt after her diagnosis.  I felt I had failed my daughter and if I'd quit when I found out Chris was deploying that I might have been able to see it more clearly that something was wrong.  It took a while to get over it, but what's done is done and I can only move forward and be the best mom I can be for her now.   
 Here's the thing.  We all will die someday.  Everyone of us will one day face God and answer for the choices we've made.  I'm pretty sure that most people don't face God and say, "Gee, I wish I had worked a few more hours in my life so I could have had more money."  Most people when they reach those retirement years find they wish they'd been a better wife/husband or mother/father.  How do you want to look back on your life?  Regrets or satisfaction?  Happy that you made good choices for your family or wishing you'd made different choices.  The choices you make today will impact you if not now they will impact your life later. 
By the way those choices you are making now?  Guess what?  They also impact your children.  Children pay a very steep price sometimes.  They pay for the dad who cheats chronically on his wives and leaves them only to find someone else who doesn't know who he is and he uses them to raise his kids until they wise up and get sick of his crap to the mom who uses her daughter as a pawn to hurt her spouse.  Those choices come with consequences and whether you pay the price right away or it comes back and kicks you in the teeth later - they will catch up with you.

I hope you all have a good week.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Who is Your Neighbor?

I'm studying the book of Luke these day and today I read the story of The Good Samaritan in Luke 10: 25-37.  And the teacher raised a good point - even though his motives were to trick Jesus he asked, "Who is my neighbor?" 

Who is our neighbor?  Yes, those who live close to us are our neighbors, but maybe it is more than that.  That is what I think Jesus was trying to explain when he told the story of The Good Samaritan.   For those of you who don't know the story I'll give you a brief recap. 

A Jewish man is travelling when he is attacked by a group of thieves who beat him and steal all of his money.  Three people walk by this man, a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan.  Which of these men stopped to help the injured man?  The men of faith?  Sadly no, it was the Samaritan - who by most standards were considered outcasts to Jewish society in those days.  The man who should have wanted nothing to do with this Jewish man, helped him.  Not only this, but he helped tend his wounds, took him to an inn and paid the bill promising to pay to remainder balance upon his return so that the man would have a place to rest and recover.  

There are many times that we as Christians get bogged down with all of the laws and rules in the Bible.  We become so worried about focusing on Jesus we forget to be Jesus to those in the world in need of our grace and mercy.  James told us that faith without works is dead - and yet we all struggle to have faith while we also work.  Focusing on Christ should always be important and should also be our main goal.  But it's also important that we not forget the great commission that Jesus gave his disciples - go into the world and share the good news.    How can we share the good news if we neglect those who are in need of God's grace and mercy.

I am not just speaking about the homeless, I am talking to you about those who are gay, transgender, those who are prostitutes, strippers, homeless, mentally ill, alcoholics, gamblers, drug addicts - those that in today's society are the lowest of the low.   Jesus sat and ate with these people because he knew they needed His love, grace and mercy and would embrace it when they finally chose to accept it.  I think the biggest way we can bring others to Christ is by being Christ to others. 

Our Christian Thought professor, Scott Daniels raised a good point one day in class when we discussed homosexuality. . . he told us that it was important that we are God's grace and mercy to those living in a world that is with it.  Those words have stayed with me since that class and helped shape how I interact with others and while I know I fall short sometimes, I hope that I am the Samaritan more often than the priest or Levite to those in the world who are my neighbor. 

So who is our neighbor?  They are the woman in the store who is tired and heading home to take care of her family, the hooker on the street who believes that selling her body is the only way to be loved, the stripper who is taking off her clothing because it's good money - maybe to pay for college or maybe she just likes the money, it's the barista selling coffee in the Bikini Hut who chooses to not wear her top because she needs to have her job to pay the bills.  Your neighbor is the homeless family living on the streets, whether because someone they love is mentally ill or because they have hit hard times.  . . 

Will you be the good Samaritan today?  Or will you be the priest or Levite?

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Friday, January 6, 2012

Healings and the Bible

I've been reading Luke 8 lately and I had the pleasure of rereading about some of Jesus' healings.  The first healing is the man who was possessed by a legion of demons - whom Jesus sent into the pigs.  As I read it, it struck me.  These people are not happy that the man is healed. . . a man who terrified the village to the point that they kept him in chains and under close guard and who lived his life naked and filthy was suddenly clean, healed, sane, no longer a threat.  How did the people of the village and region respond?  "GO AWAY!!!!  Please leave us."  Their reaction is fear instead of gratitude. 

Now the man who was healed and is suddenly demon free is delighted, but not his fellow villagers.  If you read it closely you realize a few things.  First, Jesus was in an area that was not Israel and where the Gentiles lived.  We know this because he was in Gerasenes a neighbor southeast of Israel.  But you  also know this because there was a herd of pigs.  No self-respecting and good Jew would have pigs.  Pigs were considered unclean and were in the sheet that God dropped down inf front of Peter later in the book of Acts.   Sadly the people of the village were more concerned for their own financial gain. 

My Life Application Study Bible raises a good point - normally in the Bible Jesus told people to remain quiet about him healing them.  This time though he encouraged the man to share with his family and friends about what had happened to him.  Jesus knew that soon God's love for the people would spread all over the world and this man played a part in that.  

Something else you notice is that instantly the demons in the man knew Jesus and that he was God's Son.  But they asked him to not torture them?  Hmmm. . . does this mean that God tortured the demons?  Probably not, but having failed and been driven out by the Son of God, I'm sure Satan wouldn't be too happy with them.   Satan like people is selfish - he thinks only of himself.  Just as the people of the village were not happy anytime Satan loses his grip he is not happy.   

What are your ties that keep you bound?  Some of us have struggled with demon possession and some of us have demons that haunt us - our past, poor choices we have made or things that have been done to us.  The good news is that you do not have to be bound.  God can free you.  Just as Jesus freed the man from demon possession He can free you from pain, bitterness, hatred, anger, malice, sexual addiction - you name it, there is nothing too big that Jesus' blood cannot cover.   

I hope you all have a good week. 
Love In Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dreams

A lot of people like to study their ancestry.  My mom loves the Genealogy tree thing she does and my friend Judy does Ancestry.com. For me it seems small but I dream.

In my dream I go to England and sit in a tea shop and sip English tea and eat scones and learn about tea time there.  I explore London, Somerset and all over the small area known as England that belonged to my Grandma Taylor.  I'd love to find some of her family - assuming they are still living, which more than likely they aren't, but I'd love to meet them, hear them talk about Grandma and Great Grandma and Grandpa Lily.

Great Grandma Lily had a hard life growing up, but she also had a beautiful voice.  I wonder what it was like for her.  I wonder what Grandma Taylor was like as a young child - from what I understand she was a lot like my mom.   A daydreamer, and many often thought she wasn't smart, but she was the only one in her family to pass the test to go to high school (yes, you had to pass a test to go to high school when my Grandma was a girl).  She was smart and when she got tickled she had a sweet laugh, sadly it didn't happen often.  She worked hard, sewed for us, knitted and even taught my Grandpa Taylor to knit too.  He proudly made my best friend, Patty and I similar sweater vests only mine was green and hers was pink.  Patty recently told me that she still has hers.  I lost mine in one of our numerous moves.   I'd like to know how they ended up being who they are and how their lives were in England.

It seems like a silly dream to some, but I think history is important.  We can learn so much for those who walked before us and from their achievements and their mistakes.  For now I'll be happy sipping my Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea (even though it is late at night) and dreaming of England, pubs, tea shops, and scones and hope that someday I'll make to my land of dreams.  The nice thing about dreams is there doesn't have to be a limit on them and you can dream as big or as small as you want.  Me?  I prefer to dream big.

Have a good week.
Love in Christ,
Maureen