Monday, February 28, 2011

A Child, A Dad and the Role That Dad's Play.

I know I hurriedly wrote about this before on Friday, but I'd like to talk about Dad's and how important they are to children some more.

As a little girl growing up without a dad in church it was tough - in school it was tough. Father's Day were awful to get through. As a teenager it became worse. I already felt so out of place in my own skin. My awkward phase was not particularly terrible, but it wasn't great either. It didn't help that I didn't seem to attract boys. I had a friend who just walked in a room and boys flocked to her. I had other friends who were comfortable in their own skin (or at least it seemed that way) and so besides, being a total bookworm who knew the librarians on a first name basis and social awkward, I also was different because my dad was dead. I only met a few handful of other students who also had a dead father growing up - it didn't become more common until I went to college. Even then each situation is different, I had several friend who lost their dad's later in their lives so they got to know them.

As a teenager especially when I began dating, I longed for my dad. I wanted to know what he would think about some boy, I missed that I didn't get to have that experience of having a Dad who may or may not scare away some boy who was interested in me. I have always longed to know if I am what he had hoped I would be. Would he be proud of me? Would he approve of most of the choices I made in life? What would he think of the girls? How would our lives have been different?

This void was worsened since we went to a church that for a long time made it difficult to be a fatherless child. It wasn't until I was older I began to see men of God take action to help the fatherless children. Those men probably don't even realize how much they helped me then as well as now. There was Grandpa Robert Moore who while not my actual grandfather, loved me just the same and who I enjoyed talking often. He allowed me to adopt him so I would have a person to write a letter to on Father's Day. Uncle George was awesome - even though we didn't get to see each other very often, there is something about having a tie to a man who knew your dad before his death that is soothing. He is still here for me now offering marital advice or a good chuckle when I need him. He may never fully realize how much I needed that. Then there is my Uncle Ed. A man who while not fully stepping in, I can go to when I need to ask questions about life and the other things. Elizabeth calls him Grandpa Ed and he just smiles and lets her. While it may not seem like these men are doing anything extraordinary - just knowing I can ask them for help does wonders for my sense of belonging. Last but most definitely not least, I cannot forget Bud. He isn't my dad, but he is a dad and he is dating my mom. He helped me work on the house while Chris was gone, he loves on the girls and welcomes us into his house on more than several occassions. If he thinks we need something he is quick to step in and offer a helping hand, but it works both ways - we too offer our help. While technically he isn't my stepdad - I am proud to have him in my life.

If you are a man who knows there is a family in need of a positive male role model - please do not be afraid if God has laid it on your heart. It may seem a small thing to do - taking a boy to a baseball game, mentoring him and giving him an ear. Or just telling a little girl that she looks pretty at church (these are all examples that need to be held within reason - it is possible to take things too far. Your family and marriage should not suffer by doing these things). But if God has laid this on your heart - please you never know what you might be gaining by listening to him.

My dad is dead, but not all dad's who aren't in their children's lives are dead - some choose to have little if nothing to do with their children. Some dad's are so busy working and providing financially they forget that children grow up and learn to be adults by the example set for them. The song Cat's in the Cradle is a great example of this problem.

If you are a dad and you stop and take stock of your life at home - what kind of dad will you be? Will you be the interactive and proactive father who is always there for his children? Will you be a so-so dad who is there in body but not always emotionally checked in with his family? Or will you be the absentee father who is either not involved at all or who is so busy providing financially he has forgotten that children need emotional support as well? Do you teach your children to speak respectfully to their mother? Or do you encourage them to ignore her and treat her rudely or disrespectfully?

It isn't too late to change - especially if your children are still at home. It isn't too late to make amends or to try and create a relationship with your children if you are an absentee father. Let's make 2011 a year of father's to encourage them and support them. Let's help them as they work to be better men of God and to grow closer to their families if they aren't already?

I hope you all have a good week. Happy Wednesday and God Bless.

Love in Christ,

Why EVERYONE Needs a Kindle

Okay in what I am sure many of you will think is a shameless free promotion of the Kindle, I have to share why I love my birthday present so much. Here are my top reasons why I think everyone should have a Kindle.

1. It has a lot of free book options so you don't have to spend a ton of money! Free books! Really does it get better than that?

2. It makes books that are otherwise huge seems much smaller and thus more feasible to read. Come on, we've all started a book that is huge and seems daunting. For me it's Jane Eyre. I can only get to about half way through it, when I lose hope and give up. However, with the Kindle, it is small and manageable - because you don't feel as if you are trying to hold a large book whilst you read.

3. It can turn the pages with one click of the button either way. I love to read and sadly, usually when I am on the treadmill or elliptical machine that is my only free time to read a book. And this means I have to deal with worrying about how to keep my book from closing or losing my place because the pages flip either forward or backward (it depends on how well "loved" my book is at the time). With a Kindle, I don't have this problem. And since I can also download the Bible for a small fee (Zondervan's NIV is only $1.99 from the Kindle Store) it means I can also do my time with God; so I can exercise my physical body as well as the spiritual mind at the same time. How great is that?!! Pretty great in my book!

4. It has a function (at least on mine and my mom's) that enables voice reading. It's electronic right now it sounds like it. But this means that people who are losing their sight can now hear their books and since the Kindle is small and lightweight so even if they are older and don't have a lot of strength, they win both ways. Who knows as time goes by, maybe they will find a way to replace the electronic voice with the voice of actors or singers who people enjoy listening too so they can hear the books in a human voice. Give them time - it can happen.

5. It makes reading while traveling much less of a hassle. I love to read while traveling but I do not love the fact that it used to mean lugging a book with me. Now I just put my Kindle in it's case and I'm good to go, it's slim and streamlined for easy carrying and storage.

6. Finally I like the Kindle because just as you can turn the pages with a click of the button (which happen to be on both sides by the way and they allow you to move forward or back a page) the Kindle also saves your place for you. So when you stop reading and then turn it back on, it is there w/o worrying that small children might remove your bookmark. This is something that happens to me often and it really annoys me. It also means I don't have to worry about bending down the paged.

I love this Kindle, because while I would never choose to buy this for myself because I generally find other more important things to purchase than something for me. I love that Chris knew this and so he bought it for me AND he spent a little extra money so it has 3G capability so I can read it anywhere. I know it will show wear and tear as time goes on, but that's okay. And while I still love to read a good old fashioned book. In fact, I love the smell of books and the sounds of turning pages and the way they look after you've read them over an over again. I also love that the Kindle keeps my books for me so I can save on storage space and in a house that is less than 1,000 square feet, that is essential.

I hope you all have a blessed week.

Love in Christ,

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Year of the Dad

This is one of the few photos left of me with my Dad. He died suddenly when I was 5 yrs old and it has left a huge impact on my life.

After watching The Grace Card, I suspect that God is claiming 2011 as The Year of the Dad. And I think this is important. As a girl who grew up w/o her father, I know all to well how important the relationship is between a father and his children. Not just daughters, but also a father and sons.

Men, women may be the nurturers to some degree, but you are the men who will teach your sons and daughters what kind of men it is important to be. This will shape the choices your daughters will make for their future husband and it will teach your son what kind of man he want's to be (or not be in some cases). Those of you working and striving to be Men of God and of Faith - please keep seeking God. If you haven't always been there, it isn't too late to change - so please keep working towards that goal as well.

May God Bless you and Keep you this weekend.

Love in Christ,
Maureen Koeppel

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Importance of Routine with Autism

Today was a busy day. We awoke to find out furnace had sadly finally croaked. Nothing that a good service repair man couldn't fix, however, waking up with a house that is only 53 degrees is not fun. So while it may not have been ideal, I have to admit the rest of the day went on rather uneventfully. I picked up Beka early from preschool and finished the last of the shoe shopping for those who needed new shoes with some of our tax money. Thankfully this trip didn't cost us over $500 (we invest in higher end shoes that last longer so we don't have to purchase them as often. It helps a lot on the shoe bill), we had leftovers for lunch, and this afternoon Chris and I took the van to Wal-Mart for new tires, an oil change and an inspection to get ready for our move and long journey to Washington. This evening was lovely and just as boring with spaghetti made for supper and then I ran to Mom & Bud's to check on the mail for them.

Here is the interesting part, while I ran to check on the house for my folks, Elizabeth and Beka took it upon themselves with only a little chat from me before I left. They finished their ice cream, put their bowls in the sink for washing then proceeded upstairs where they took their bath and Lizzie made sure to wash her own hair and Rebekah's hair too and their bodies. After getting into clean jammies, they then brushed their teeth and put themselves to bed. While this may not seem terribly remarkable, it is in the sense that Chris was so busy trying to get the new Switched on Schoolhouse software to work that he completely zoned out and didn't realize they'd done any of these things until I walked in the house.

I think routines are important. Not all routines, for example: eating a different cereal or making something different than what you have on your menu is a good thing - because sometimes changing things up keeps it lively. But when it comes to the girls and especially Elizabeth I have found that routines are necessary.

For Sarah even, she likes knowing that when she walks in from school I will be waiting for her and Elizabeth. Riding the bus used to be an important part of the routine for Elizabeth. However, as she has begun to flourish, I think it is now possible that we may not need the bus. Washington will be a great way to establish if she still needs the bus. Another part of her routine that is important to Elizabeth as well as her classmates is the routine that comes from standardized dress codes. Each child may wear tan or navy blue pants along with a navy blue, white, or orange shirt. The only exception to this rule is Picture Day and Fridays when the children may then wear dark denim blue jeans. Sarah hated the dress code because she hadn't gone to schools that hard standardized dress before, but we found that allowing her to wear funky socks and by funny sneakers allowed her to express her individuality while still making sure she complied with the rules.

When you have a child with Autism or even an Autism Spectrum Disorder routine becomes just as necessary to your life as monitoring foods (keeping sugars low and watching for red and green food dyes for us - they triggered aggression in Elizabeth). These routines are important because they allow your child to understand what comes next. When that routine is changed too much, then it can often lead to a meltdown. There are also ways to let your autistic child know what is expected of them - pictures posted on the wall of teeth brushing, turning off the light, putting on jammies, etc. . . and putting them in a specific order will help a lot. This pictures also work as a way for the child to talk to you. Rebekah is a peer model in a classroom that has mostly non-verbal children. She and another child show and model for the students appropriate (and sometimes inappropriate) behavior. They use books with pictures in them so the children can tell them if they want a drink, or need to use the restroom, of if they need something - this is a helpful tool for them and the teachers and helps the teachers understand what the child needs. I would have loved to have known about those books when Elizabeth had minimal verbal skills.
By the way the pictures may also be used to teach your child how to do his/her own laundry (at an older age of course), how to dress themselves, brush their own teeth, wash dishes. All of those things are needed to survive in the world today.

I encourage those with Autistic children to please research - there are many resources and tools to use for your autistic child. The more we learn the more you can reach out to your child. No longer does having an Autistic child necessarily mean you must institutionalize them (this is not always the case for every autistic child), many autistic children are very intelligent and the key if figuring out how to unlock the knowledge their heads and help them come into the world we live in today while keeping their minds intact. There are a lot of excellent special needs teams in the U.S. So please don't give up hope. We are still learning so much about this disability and let me encourage you to not see the diagnosis but to see the child within.

I hope you all have a good week. I should be getting a new laptop soon and so I will be able to resume a daily blog then.

Love in Christ,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Proverbs 4

I am currently reading Isaiah and Proverbs as part of my devotions. My goal is to read through the whole Bible this year and I have a bit of catching up to do. Sadly, I also love television and movies and this is poses a problem.

Today part of my reading was Proverbs 4 and I found the entire chapter very interesting - it is a father trying to teach his son to seek wisdom. This is a tough journey and it's hard sometimes to walk that straight and narrow path - especially today with so many people in our world advocating the idea of "if it feels good then it must be the right thing to do."

However, I especially found these verses intriguing and a spiritual wake up call. Proverbs 4: 24-27. "Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or to the left, keep you foot from evil." (Life Application Study Bible, New International Version 2005). Wow, put away perversity? Keep corrupt talk from your lips? How guilty am I of doing these same things? The answer is very guilty. It makes a person want to hang their head in shame.

How easy it is to watch television or movies where they make jokes about sex, and many immoral things? I know I personally enjoyed the tv show Friends, and I find I am at war between what I know God wants for me (a pure heart and mind) and the fact that I found the show incredibly funny. There is a part of me that enjoyed watching it and the laughs it gave to me, but I also know that it is not what God would want. The main characters have sex with their boyfriends outside of marriage and sometimes they aren't even their boyfriends. They make crude jokes, that while humorous are not what God wants for us.

A few years ago I remember Jimmy Needham talking about having lunch/coffee with a friend and how his friend was using crude humor and talking about things that broke Jimmy's heart.This friend was a fellow believer - truly heart breaking. How often as Christian do we forget to live in the world and not of the world? I know I am guilty of this and it is something I struggle with constantly.

While facing spiritual conviction is always difficult it is also a part of the growing process in our relationship with Christ. As time goes by and I grow older, I find that somehow I no longer find myself angry when facing that lovely spiritual 2 x 4 that comes at me when God needs me to face where I am failing and need to grow some more. Maybe it's because as I grow older I realize that when I follow Christ and allow him to be the one in control that it is a smoother path - or at least a little bit easier to face those difficult times. While we live in a world where people want happy mediums for many things, I find that God asks for everything to be His way and not our way.

We often find it is a struggle to find that happy medium, but with God there is His way only. The straight and narrow path and Jesus was correct when he said that many will fall by the wayside. Will you be one of them? Or will you join me as I strive to grow closer to Christ and learn to walk the straight and narrow path too? I hope you all have had a good week.

Love in Christ,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An IEP Update

Today we had a very nice and lovely IEP meeting with Elizabeth teacher and special needs team. I am optomistic that Elizabeth will struggle, but succeed once we move. We discussed the fact that had we moved last year, the team would have worried because she wasn't ready to move or handle change. Now though, we are all confident that she is going to do well and will succeed.

We agreed to set up SKYPE for Elizabeth and this way she can talk to Mrs. Silveous the first few weeks or so while she gets readjusted. While we have some areas that need some work - like her gender pronoun confusion and we are still working a little bit on the TH sound. She's learning how to stand up for herself - some days are better than other, but we are making progress. We have agreed that the first few weeks in her new school we should do a half day or so as she gets to know her teachers and her new classmates.

We also learned something very touching. Mrs. Silveous shared with us that she chose to pursue her Master's Degree in Special Education because of Elizabeth. I didn't realize that the school was at a loss on how to deal with Elizabeth when I chose it and she first entered Spaght. They did a good job of making me believe in Mrs. Silveous and that she could handle Elizabeth's needs. Might I add, she did so with amazing clarity. She got in there rolled up her sleeves and she got the job done. She implemented the happy face/sad face for each activity. She had Elizabeth's day broken down into small sections - she looked into different ways to help Elizabeth. This was all in Elizabeth's first year of public school and Kindergarten. She looked at the teachers who would or wouldn't be a good fit for Elizabeth. Too strict would mean Elizabeth would dig her heels in and do nothing to help herself, but a teacher who is too nice isn't good for her either. Elizabeth is very smart and she would have worked a teacher who was too nice and manipulated him/her into getting what she wanted. So each year we've met and discussed who would be a good teacher for Elizabeth in the next grade. Mrs. Silveous has been Elizabeth's guardian angel at Spaght and honestly, I'm not quite sure how we will get along without her.

On an extremely positive note, Elizabeth has gone from reading only 6 words a minute to being able to read 50 words a minute with only 5 errors! That is a 72% improvement from the beginning of the year to now. And I was so concerned about the possiblity that she might not be able to read last year.

The first IEP is the toughest for you when you are just beginning to realize that your child has special needs. There is no more delusions that your child is fine; the thin veneer of denial you live in is gone and you must face that your child needs help and it's more than you can give to her. Chris and I were talking about when we left the first meeting we ever had with a special needs team and how it felt like our insides had been ripped out and trampled on. However, diagnosis is the first step and once this occurs it opens the door to services that your child might not otherwise receive.

I hope you all have a good evening and a good week.

Love in Christ,

Individual Educational Meeting

Today is that once a year meeting that all parents who have children disabilities in America look forward to with a bit of optimism or complete dread. It's an Individual Education Meeting or I.E. P. for short. This is the meeting we have each year to discuss any progress or shortcomings of sorts our child/children are facing.

Our first I.E.P. meeting happened in February 2006 and it was terrible. Our house isn't in the best neighborhood, so before they got to the meat of the meeting I had to stop them and ask them to stop talking to us like we were morons because we were pretty well educated. It doesn't hurt that my mom has a Master's Degree in Chapter One Reading and had spent a while working on her Master's in Special Education and that Aunt Nina was the gifted teacher for South High. I had a lot of information and resources at my disposal. Once we established some respect and courtesy ground rules, it just went downhill from there. Each person had tested Elizabeth and she fell short by leaps at the time. After leaving there, I felt like all the air had been sucked out of my lungs and I wanted to cry. We knew something wasn't right, and we didn't have our official diagnosis yet from Dr. Kerschon, but after that meeting there was no going back to living in denial that something was wrong with our little girl.

Today we face a new I.E.P. and the challenges she faced back when we first started have changed significantly. We've gone from learning how to socially interact appropriately with others (we still have social goals in her I.E.P.'s just not like when we first started) to working on understanding concepts, like beginning, middle, and end and before and after concepts. These are major changes. The little girl who barely spoke except in jargon or to echo what you'd said (it's called echolalia) can talk your ear off. The child who used to require that Mrs. Silveous peal her off of my leg, now walks herself into school and has friends. While we have come so far, it still smarts a bit when faced with the areas that still need some focus and work. As she gets older the gaps between her peers and Elizabeth is closing in so she's closer to being like her friends in school. Regardless of our progress, the children at Spaght all know her and say "Hi" to her often in the halls and out in public. I know that without the children and the special needs team at Spaght, we might not have made as much progress with Elizabeth.

I hope you all have a good week.

Love in Christ,

Friday, February 11, 2011

Stubborn Pride

My senior year in high school was a good year for me. I finally had my first serious boyfriend. For privacy reasons we'll call him John. My mom tried to discourage me from being so serious but in my foolishness and my stubborn wants and desires, I didn't listen. I ended up being with John for almost three years and he spent another three jerking me around like a puppet on a string. My mom used to loath him, she felt like he had robbed me of some of my best years, but the truth is, my own stubborn pride and thinking of myself and what I wanted cost me that time. It was me that made the choice to not listen to my mother's wisdom and in doing so, it took me a long time to recover from the consequences.

I tell this story, because Sarah has a boyfriend. His name is unimportant at this time - he is a nice kid. He is courteous and respectful, but he isn't the right one for her. We know this, Sarah like, Chris and I and her mom, Kate is a strong personality and when you have such a strong will, it is vitally important that you be equally yoked in many ways with your partner. Tonight (Friday evening), we allowed Sarah to have boyfriend over and he was nice, they had a good time, and of course, I was here the whole time chaperoning. So imagine our surprise when I teased her a little about holding hands with him (I wasn't happy about it, really) when she informed us that when we had allowed her to go to church with her friends that he had finally worked up the courage to hold her hand in church.

We are moving - this is an inevitable thing - even if the job with Boeing falls through and we're pretty sure it won't. We will be moving - it means Chris will find an Active Guard Reserve (AGR) job or something to keep us going, but moving day is coming at some point in time. Getting something started at this point is a very bad idea. Any adult whose gone through life, knows what I am talking about and so I have tried to talk to her and yet she refuses to listen.

All of this got me thinking. . . how often does God try to lead us and show us His will and we ignore Him? We do what it is we want to do and make a mess of things only to cry out to him to rescue us because we get in over our heads? If God feels even more frustrated than I do with Sarah at this point, then I am humbly sorry for being a source of frustration? So often we try to be the ones in control, when what we need to be doing is trusting the Lord with our lives. Proverbs 3:5 & 6 tells us; "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight." And yet we go on trying to do it ourselves. I know that as we mature and begin the path into adulthood, that it is difficult to listen to the adults around us. I was a teenager once as well, I struggled and clawed and fought against my mother, trying to reach adulthood as she worked so hard to protect me from myself and the world. In these moments, all I can say is, "I'm sorry Mom for being so prideful and willful and not listening to you." I get it now and I understand how frustrating it must have been watching me make mistakes. While the world would have us believe that making mistakes is a part of life - God has different plans for our lives. He longs for us to seek his guidance and counsel and when we do this and listen to what He has to say to us, that is when life falls into place. It isn't always neat and perfect, because trials will come no matter what happens and no matter how much we trust in Him - it is how we grow spiritually and learn to persevere.

I hope you have a good weekend.

Love in Christ,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Facing a New IEP and Change

This is the time of year I always enjoy and dread. While I love Winter and all it's lovely hot teas, hot cocoa's and snuggling it also brings something I'm not fond of, but it is an evil necessity. Elizabeth's yearly IEP. Individual Educational Planning is the technical name for it and it means we do several things. First, we look at where Elizabeth was when she started - which is an amazing thing to see. Second, we look at where she is now. Still an amazing thing to see. Finally, we look at what we need the goals to be for the upcoming school year and where exactly she is lacking.

The last step isn't a bad thing, but from a mom's viewpoint, sometimes it makes it tough to keep that glass half full instead of half - empty. Sometimes it feels like with all of the amazing achievements she's made she is still not complete and the dreamer - the mother in me longs for her to catch up with her peers. For Elizabeth's sake more than anything. I know that Elizabeth realizes that she isn't like the other children. Especially in her school. She is different because Elizabeth attends a magnet school that just happens to have a large number of black children and she is a minority. I didn't know this when I picked Spaght for her, and honestly, I don't care. Spaght has an amazing team of teachers and staff and I know that they are a huge part of the equation in why Elizabeth has come so far. Another part of this equation is the children. Instead of seeing her as different from the beginning, they welcomed her in and looked out for her - she has become quite well known in school. Chris and I can't walk down the halls without the children saying, "Hi Elizabeth's mom/dad." They are good kids and they have been wonderful to her - sure we have a few stinkers in the bunch, but there are always a few stink pots who have to make life tough on everyone else. It's a part of life. Aside for being a different color than her peers she realizes she is different from them because of her special needs. She knows that her brain works differently from theirs and she sees the world differently and it does bother her, probably more than she lets on to us.

So now we go into a new IEP meeting so we can prepare to exit her out and move across the country to a new state and find a new school. I think the thing that worries me the most is how will we find another Mrs. Silveous. Mrs. Silveous has been a guardian angel for Lizzie - she is part teacher, protector, and part adopted grandparent for her. The kids know that messing with Lizzie means dealing with Mrs. Silveous. She was her first mainstream classroom teacher. She decided after teaching Elizabeth and other special needs children that she wanted a Master's Degree in Special Education. This meant she was able to be Elizabeth's Special Needs Educator, it was wonderful for Elizabeth - it meant Mrs. Silveous could watch over her and help her blossom and grow. Each teacher along the way has been a blessing and carefully picked.

Now we are moving to a new state, a new school system and if I said, I wasn't worried then I would be a liar. I worry about finding the right teacher to fit with Elizabeth, the right school for her. So as we prepare for the next step in this adventure called "Life" I find myself praying and asking God to take control of this situation and help me find the right school for Elizabeth and the right place for us to live.

Thank you for a wonderful opportunity. Thank you for the chance to see more of your amazing creations.
I lift these questions to you Lord. Please help us find a good apartment/condo/house in a timely fashion. Help me keep things level and even for Elizabeth and the other girls as we find a new place to live and a new place to call home. Lead us to the place you want us to have and the schools you know are the best choices for the girls. Help us as we help the girls face the unknown and new challenges. Help us as we prepare to move to a part of the country where we will be the odd duck. Help us to remember that YOU are in control not ourselves and when we leave things in your hands that you always make a way for us.

Have a good weekend and God bless.

Love in Christ,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Conviction and Ephiphanies

Today's devotional time was interesting. I enjoy reading Isaiah - okay maybe enjoy is a bit strong, but I am wading through it, slowly but surely. After reading Isaiah, I wandered over into Psalms. Interestingly enough I chose to start with the first Psalm and received conviction.

Psalm 1:1
" Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the ways of the sinner
or sit in the seat of the mockers."

Seat of the mockers? Ouch! I know I am guilty of this. In fact, I am certain of it. You would think I would know better than to do that since I was often on the receiving end of being mocked. But it appears that even I am susceptible to falling into this trap of mocking others (even if they are people who will never read my blog or Facebook page). So I looked it up in Webster's Dictionary to define what exactly does it mean to mock someone. This is what I found - "mock: to treat others with contempt or ridicule." It also means, " to mimic in sport or derision." I am guilty of this. Wow, so much for working on holding my tongue. I realized that even if I don't openly mock someone on Facebook or to my friends/husband/ or family (come on we've all had thoughts of contempt or derision towards that person who makes us nuts by doing something that is less than smart) that it is still mocking people. And I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of that one. It also made me think back to the fact that one of my favorite characters on Friends, is Chandler. He's funny, he mocks people - even those he loves. They don't take it personally, but there are times when they don't like it and you can tell. Interesting that our society now considers it a good thing to openly mock people now. Hmmmm . . . this is definitely something to pray about, that God will help me to no longer mock people whether I know them or not. After all aren't we called to be in the world, but not of the world?

This brings me to my second portion of this day. While meditating on this I began thinking about the fact that I am struggling to figure out what area of Psychology I want to study for my doctorate. And I realized something. I don't want to be a Psychologist. It is a noble profession and those who pursue it make wonderful contributions to society and individuals. However, I know this about me, I have spent years cleaning up other people's messes in some way or another and I don't really relish the idea of doing that for a living. Nor do I necessarily like science and doing scientific research. As Elizabeth would say, "It's not my favorite" thing to do, in fact, I really truly loath it. I took Biology because I needed to for my general requirements, however, I didn't really enjoy it - at least not the lab section.

This is what I know. I could be a psychologist and I could do a good job at it. I could even be a therapist if I chose to not pursue a doctorate in Psychology. However, it isn't what I really like to do. I like writing. I've enjoyed it for years. I love putting words together and painting written pictures for others to enjoy and read. I like reading and learning new things. So after realizing this and talking to Chris I am changing my major for college. Even though I am really close to finishing my Psychology degree (I have 2 semesters left), I know that I could finish, but it isn't really where my heart lies and if I do finish it, I will regret it. However, if I pursue my Bachelor's in English, I can take that and pursue my passion. By the way it also means I can work from home, which gives me the necessary flexibility to be there for the girls and especially for Elizabeth if life is giving her an especially tough time.

So this was my morning and this all occurred prior to 10 a.m. Interesting, I know, and yet, still true.

What are you feeling convicted about? Are you a mocker? Do you get pleasure from openly making fun of others stupidity or poor choices? I know I am guilty of this very things. Something I intend to stop today. No matter how tempting it may be at the time. It is easy to open our mouths and speak words but once they are out in the open, you cannot take them back.

I hope you all have a good week.

Love in Christ,

Monday, February 7, 2011

What is Normal?

I have to confess, I didn't get the idea for this blog on my own. So thank you Kirk Kraft.

What is normal? Why does it seem society thinks it has the right to dictate what normal is for everyone? Can you establish your own normal?

Well it's part of life for starters - The majority seem to decide what is normal. There isn't a lot of abnormal in our house, at least it doesn't feel abnormal. Then I talk to people without a special needs child (special needs, being medical needs or even educational special needs) and I realize that not everyone watches their child like a hawk when they start coughing, because you never know if the flu shot is going to do it's job this year and you could end up in the ER getting breathing treatments. Not everyone has a once a year reminder (and usually more often than that) that your child is struggling to meet the standards of the school system and to catch up with her peers. Those moments of doctor's visits for amblyopia, asthma & allergies, and the IEP's are the moments I learn to live with. Like Kirk wrote, trips to the hospital and once a month labs have become their normal. We know that every few months Elizabeth has to see the opthamologist and during cold and flu season, we have to be careful so she doesn't catch anything respiratory. Thankfully as she gets older it seems to become more about allergies flaring up her asthma than a common cold or the flu. However, there are those moments when nothing prepares you for that swift kick to the gut of being reminded that your child isn't like the other children.

It's often something as simple as watching Elizabeth trying her darnedest to sing and dance with the other kids for a Christmas musical or for Vacation Bible School. Or sitting in an IEP meeting and realizing that as far as we've come, there is still a long road ahead of us. Sometimes it is being in a restaurant and having some one else's child call your daughter, "the little crazy girl" because she talks differently or gets excited quickly. Everyone is Elizabeth's friend in her mind, but not all of them feel that way about Elizabeth. Those are the moments where I get that swift kick in the butt and an instant reminder that while denial is lovely, I have to be honest and face that my daughter isn't like the other children.

There will always be an IEP, a doctor's visit (Although in the next few years the trips to the opthamologist should dissipate to once a year. There is something about that 10 year marker in age, where the eye stabilizes to it's new level and remains), there is always going to be some challenge where Elizabeth will need a little extra help.
Chris and I have had numerous conversations about the fact that at some point in time, Elizabeth will move out - but more than likely we or someone will always need to be close by to help her out. When she is frustrated she struggles to think things through. Some of that is a maturity issue (after all how many 9 year olds do you know who think things through completely), but some of it is her autism. It's frustrating and heartbreaking, but it also comes with it's own rewards. We get to keep our little girl a little longer than the average child. She has an amazing imagination that comes to life when she plays alone or with her friends. She loves to read and be read to, this means extra snuggle time for me or Chris.

There are a lot of things in our home that aren't "normal". It's not the same as a medical need, but it's ours and it comes with challenges and with rewards.

I hope you all have a good week. And God bless you.
Love in Christ,

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Preparing the Way

Moving is always a process. Anyone who has moved more than once or twice will tell you it is a lot of work and preparation. Moving also has many advantages.

First, moving means you get to get rid of the junk you've accumulated in your house. It's a great way to get rid of those things you know you should get rid of but until now, were never quite motivated to throw out or give away.

Second, you find things you'd forgetten you owned or had lost. I found a cd that I enjoyed a great deal while de-junking our bedroom yesterday. While it isn't one of my absolute favorite cd's it is one that I had enjoyed so I was pleased to find it. I also found two boxes with cassette tapes. Some were old and needed to be thrown away (I'm sorry Clay Cross, but you hadn't been playing well for a long time) and some I kept for nostalgia reasons. We also found my favorite shawl that my mom had made for me - it's great and comfy and warm and it will be going in the van with me when we leave our home.

Third, moving can also be a good time to do some emotional house cleaning as well. We all have people in our lives who aren't really good friends to us or they are toxic. The beauty of moving to a new state or even a new country is it gives you the chance to ask yourself the tough questions. Do I really want this person remaining in my life? Are they good for me or are they toxic? While it is tough to tell people to go away from your life, moving gives you a chance to slowly phase them out without being mean or having to be hurtful. Here is the trick though - it is important to do this to those who are toxic, but also try not to do this to those who are truly your friends. Yes, being a long distance from your friends makes life tough, but if they were a good friend and you can pick up where you left off with them after not talking for a while - they are a friend worth keeping. It's been my experience in life that you tend to meet those great friends while in college or even after college. It doesn't always work out that way - after all there are some people I knew in middle school and high school from Yukon who have changed a lot and I am happy to have reconnected with them (Thank you, Facebook). Then there are those who you reconnect with, only to get a sudden reminder why you weren't so sorry to go away and not see them again (Thank you for that too, Facebook). I think the key is to figure out who your friends really are and do what you can to keep them. The other friends who aren't such good friends, cut 'em lose and let 'em go. If they hurt you while living nearby why allow them to hurt you from far away.

Finally, Moving lets you have new experiences with new cultures, new places, sights to see, and things to learn. This is the part of moving I love - making new friends and learning about new places. I have learned a lot by living in other areas and even in another country. I learned that there are always those people from a different country who makes their country proud - they are kind, thoughtful, and are good friends to people. There are also equally those people in each country who give the rest of the country a bad name. Stupid seems to know no boundaries of color, country, or personal preferences. And why is it you always meet these morons on the road? They are the ones who are talking or texting on their cell phone and driving either stupid slow or they are paying zero attention and swerving all over the place? But that's another blog for another time. I learned that parents all yell at their children in and it's pretty universal. You recognize the tone in Italian or German, etc. . . when you hear a parent talk to them in that tone, you know what they mean is "Get your tush over here before I beat it". It's true. There is always some kid who has to push the boundaries and some parent who responds with that tone. It's amusing to watch and discover.

Moving has been a fairly good experience for me. It has afforded me the opportunity to meet new people, places and do new things. It also allows me to see new parts of the world and even America. You learn a lot by moving around and watching people and how they react to things.
So as we prepare to move and we are still dejunking our house we also look forward.

I hope you all have a good week.

Love in Christ,

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Unknown:

My mind is racing in exciting and a bit of fear. Chris went to a job interview today and they said those magic words, "We'd like to make you an offer." Watch out Washington the Koeppels are moving and you are our destination. We are excited and afraid, a little nostalgic, a little worried. There are a lot of things that we need to take into account - Elizabeth is a big factor - we need to find a special needs program that will work for her and be best for her. Sarah will continue the rest of this year homeschooling, but we are toying with the idea of placing her in public high school. Rebekah will have to leave Miss Hadley and her friend, Greg.

So many goodbyes and so many new hellos in our future. Change is always a little scary, whether you have a special need or not. Change is exciting, scary, exhilirating, panic inducing, and awe-inspiring all in one sweeping motion. Part of me is ready to move. Honestly, having moved so much as a young person, being in one spot for 10 years is a bit odd for me. About five years after living in Wichita, I was itching to move. Around this time last year, I realized, we were firmly entrenched here. Our support system is here, everything we know is here. Elizabeth and Rebekah have never known a different house. So for them moving someplace new will be a bit interesting to say the least. With all changes in life there are pros and cons, I've found.

Changes keep us limber, they make us stay on our toes, move out of our comfort zone. And this will be a huge change for us. Chris and I have both lived mainly in the Midwest/Bible Belt for most of our lives. Moving to the West Coast might be a bit of a culture shock for us. Every area of the U.S. has differences - things that make them unique. The East Coast people have their quick wit, sharp tones in their voices, and while they can be mistaken for rude, the people I have met from the East Coast have been friendly and lovely. The Southern way of life tends to be more slow paced and relaxing - which I have to say, I think they are on to something there. I don't like being constantly busy - I may have been born into the wrong part of the country. Of course, Texas is a state all on it's own and depending on where you are in the state you either love it or . . .well you don't love it. But no matter what part of the country or continent you live on, I find that there are always people who are awe inspiring, some who make you shake your head and wonder if Bill Engvall is around the corner with that "sign" of his, and then there are those who are like you trying to figure it all out one day at a time. Some of them have found the answer - they have discovered God and His infinite mercy and that His timing is perfect even if it doesn't coincide with our own timetable. They realize that allowing Christ's love to shine through you is more important than anything - even if they don't always succeed in living for Him each day.

So we walk into the unknown, wondering what does the wonderful and from what I understand incredibly beautiful state of Washington hold for us? What new adventures await us? What new heart aches? New friends and faces? New life experiences and new places to explore? And so we say goodbye for now with sadness and a little worry. We know that while living in Kansas we have been loved and have made good friends. But we also know that we will make new friends and find new faces and new places.

Sometimes walking into the unknown is so scary. I can only imagine how Jesus must have felt as He left his life with his family behind and began to live his life in service for you. Be with those we love and must leave behind and be with our family as we head into a new adventure. Watch over us and help us find the house YOU want us to have. Help Chris as he gears up to transfer, help him as he begins a new chapter in his work life. Help Chris to know we are here with him and supporting him all the way. Help our daughters as they say goodbye to friends and beloved teachers. Help them as they face new adventures, and make new friends.
Thank you for a new opportunity to learn new lessons and see new things and discover the beauty of another place You created.