“Let me Be Brave in the Attempt”

 

Today I was getting ready to take Tucker on his walk and he noticed the words on the back of my t-shirt.  Tucker doesn’t really read, so I read it for him. “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt” ( the Special Olympics Motto) As I finished those words my voice cracked and the tears filled my eyes-We had just finished a busy weekend of Special Olympics ceremonies, swimming competition and celebration. This was his 3rd year of competition, each year has had its own baggage of challenges and each year we inch our way into making it easier for him to deal with the sights and sounds of crowds and confusion with our favorite support tool: Young Living’s Vetiver essential oil; this year was no different except my gut was not in knots, full of fear, of how he would react.

Tucker would be competing in the same 3 events he had competed at in regional competition, but this time competition was in the Olympic sized pool instead of a regular high school swimming pool.  My concern was that he does not understand the depth of the pool and this year he would be swimming without the flotation device.  Tucker didn’t win a medal in his 25 m swim in the big Olympic sized pool, in fact, he technically would have been disqualified for this event.  We aren’t really sure of why he stopped during his  25 m swim, the start was rushed–maybe his goggles weren’t right? Who knows?  But one thing we do know,  he figured out he could not touch the bottom of this pool as he can in the pool they usually practice in.  He stopped and his head bobbed under at one point  and this over protective, deeply invested Mamma’s  heart sank and we were sure if he was going to make it across without assistance. He swam over to the lane divider and grabbed it for a moment, rubbed his nose and then continued on. The coach signaled one of the other coaches to be ready and the lifeguard watched ready to jump in and I hear a voice in my head  saying: “come on Tucker, just keep swimming!”  and I cheered and yelled and waved my arms like an insane, overexcited crazy woman as he swam and safely made it to the finish line of the edge of the pool all by himself.  This is one of those times where that Special Olympics motto rings SO true and warms a momma’s heart:  He WAS Brave!

special olympicsoath

Tucker is not a fast swimmer yet. He continues to be challenged  getting his kick and his arms to actually propel himself forward, but today his win was not about speed, not about style, it was about being brave during a time that could have put him into a panic, he took a deep breath and kept on swimming. Special Olympics continues to teach him many things and offer him ways to grow  and this year has proved no less of value as the first two.  No,  He did not  get a gold medal, but sometimes, just as in real life, we learn the greatest things  when we don’t come in first. We grow the most when things aren’t the easiest, but when they are the hardest; when we have to pull it all together and push and keep going with all  our might, like the little engine who could, despite your fear, despite everything else, you push with your will and you make it to the finish line and THAT, in itself, is the victory.  The “gold  medal”   is the feeling in your heart when your  “I think I can, I think I can”……becomes: I DID IT!!!!  and….” I thought I could, I knew I could,  I knew I would!!  iknewicould

 

My World Down Syndrome day at Classical Conversations

Today I visited classical conversations homeschooling group with Rhyker and Tucker- it brought back many memories of being at a co-op and trying to integrate Tucker – I remember the challenge Tucker had with the sensory overload, the anxiety and tummy issues it caused him- changing his dirty diaper on a blanket on the the floor in the handicap stall because he was too big to put on the changing table and there was no other place–the frustration of trying to get him to stay in a classroom and not understanding the sensory overload he was dealing with and finding myself frazzled, overwhelmed and in tears the whole way home. I did not have that same experience today- my now 20 year old young man sitting in a room of young children-who far surpass him in ability- the other kids stare- trying to make sense of this “man- boy” they watch him attempt to color and struggle to hold a colored pencil- he covers his ears when things get too loud; I wonder if he might decide to dart OUT of the building and I sit holding his hand wondering: Monica, are you insane? WHAT Are you DOING HERE????
One of the girls shares her snack with him- ❤️
And I’m reminded of why I came in the first place.
I don’t know how this will play out for me in the fall, but today I was reminder that I AM a Down syndrome mom- and that my son still doesn’t fit easily into this world of “normal”- but maybe, just maybe- this group might be a place where he can be the wonderful, “square peg” he is.

Tools

     There was a time a few years ago when I would have feared an appointment day like today.  I would have stressed, my gut would have a pain all morning as I would drive the hour-long drive to the appointment. I  would never consider taking my son by myself, but would have insisted on reinforcements of a sibling or a care provider. I would never have let him sit next to a door, if it could be avoided, to prevent him from opening the door while the car was moving or trying to get out while stopped at a light.  I would always have tools with me at all times;

tools

A few tools

tools that would assist in making the appointment go as well, to use as a diversion.  An iPod for music, iPad with a video or pictures for him to look at, his favourite stuffed toy, pizza, soda, chips.  I could not make stops or run errands on appointment day; that would be a set up for a  disaster. There were times I would drive 45 minutes home from a doctor’s appointment and have to turn around that evening and drive back into the store to do errands.

        I remember one time when he was much younger, he broke the window out of our van with his foot while I was driving, glass shattering.  He has grabbed hair and arms and faces of his siblings while they were buckled up in the seat next to him,  I look back on those times and my heart sinks; I remember the stress and frustration we lived with.  I can  look back now  see that my son was dealing with so much fear himself. Confusion and anger welled up inside him. He was unable to communicate his fears and he was unable to understand the situation.
  I wish I had discovered Young Living essential oils many years ago, perhaps I could have avoided some of those situations, those melt downs.  Or when the situation fell apart and my neck was tight with knots of frustration, my jaws gritting tight, I would have  had  a tool to use for myself to ease some of my own anxiety.  It was a difficult time, I relied on much prayer. It is a funny thing today to face an appointment without such stress.   No fear that my son will run from the building, hit the doctor or kick someone in the face. We have made huge progress here.  Essential oils have made a difference in our lives. Are they magic? No. But in a world where the only option given to you is pharmaceuticals where it is questionable if the benefits outweigh the side effects, essential oils  are definitely a blessing. Not a fix all, but a tool to throw into my bag of tricks- it just happens to be the tool that has made a huge difference for my son, and for myself?  An answer to many prayers. 

vetiver

 

Thinking of my dad on his birthday~

dadchalk

This morning after my walk, I stopped by my garden to gather some spinach, dandelion greens and pig-weed to saute’ with a couple of eggs from the chicken coop~ just a bit “granola” huh?  and  I was thinking of my dad. 
When I was in high school I became a vegetarian, I was a vegetarian for 12 years or so. My dad was a meat cutter and  a meat and potatoes kind of guy.  During my high school years, I was in charge of getting dad his dinner, because I was  the only one of my sisters not involved in after school sports.  Many times I would experiment with vegetarian meals  and serve it to my dad. Dad had the motto of : “always eat was is put in front of you”…. and so he did. He didn’t complain too much, he just seemed to think I was crazy and would shake his head.  I stopped being a vegetarian years ago, But I still seem to take the road less taken in many aspects of my life. Dad never agreed with some of the crazy things I did and often he even said so.  I always knew he loved me for who I was no matter how odd I might have seemed to him. 
The distance home has never been as far away as it is now-  I hope dad knows he is loved, missed and forever appreciated.  And when I venture to make a vegetarian dish such as lentil casserole, I always think of my dad who would shake his head and  eat it no matter how awful he thought it was. Thanks Dad. 

The day my brain failed me, but vetiver oil did not!

I am what I refer to as a : “down Syndrome mom” you know, the ones you see standing on the side lines at a parade, or escorting and assisting them onto  rides at the fair, in the aisle of the  grocery store, holding the hands of their adult  children, who have down syndrome, helping them do the things that they love, buying the things that they need,  integrating them into the communities and protecting them from harm; Today I failed in part of this attempt.

I have told my son for 2 weeks, we would be watching a concert in the park.  One  of his favorite  child entertainers, Tim Noah, was doing a summer concert close by.  He looked forward to it. He counted down to it.  My son has few words, but  the words he would say to any one who would listen were about this concert: “four more days,  Park, music, the wow, wow wobble woo”, as I tried to help interpret his excitement over the concert.  The  day finally arrives.  We have listened to Tim Noah music everyday for months . My daughter took the day off work to go along. My sixteen year old  son comes along to help watch his six-year-old brother.  I even call dad to see of he is working near to the park to join us and I had invited a friend to meet up with us there.  We procure a handicapped parking space and unload quickly in hopes  to get a good spot in front of the stage.  I realize there is no one on the stage. The park lawn is empty and  families are concentrated around the water area. I’m suddenly filled with this slight panicky feeling of the  inadequacy of my menopausal brain.  I begin making  excuses in my head trying to justify why there is no one there. The concerts are in a different part of the park, maybe  moved into the building, or maybe we just arrived really early  ( yeah right! I never get anywhere early). I wander  into the library so my son can use the bathroom and then I see it;  The summer concert schedule-and the concert was yesterday. The concerts  are  on Tuesdays not on Wednesday. 

I think for a moment I am going to cry. I am so disappointed for my son. I am so angry at myself and frustrated. How can I be a mom who for the past 18 years get my son to nearly  every doctors appointment, therapy appointment, have blood tests and ultra sounds done and in place with results sent into the doctor before the appointment, but I can’t remember the right day of  the Tim Noah concert? What is happening to my brain? Have I lost my marbles? I have to make my son understand this. So I grab him and get into his face  and say “Mom made a BIG mistake, there is no music concert today, I am so sorry! ”  I tell him we can go have a picnic, but the concert is all done.  I pull out the vetiver oil and roll a drop on the back of his neck. He gives me a hug and a kiss. He is suddenly in tune  with my disappointment.  He is nodding as if he understands mom really messed up and he is trying  to show me that it is ok, we switch gears to a picnic in  The park with our friends, after I confess my big mom “fail” to my friend and her children.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
Two years ago  something  like this could have turned into a stressful, out of control  situation. I could have found myself in the bathroom with a confused, angry son, refusing to leave or possibly darting off into the crowd or even the streets in frustration like a tornado, his lack of balance, the only thing slowing him down. But not today he was able to redirect and transition.  He played on the park equipment and he walked around the lake. He was hot and sweaty and his feet hurt from his orthos being a bit too tight. But he remained pleasant and calm and enjoyed the day. I  am still really mad at myself for missing one of the most important things to him of the entire summer, but it was an opportunity for me to marvel  at how far we have come.  It was a reminder of just how much a drop of vetiver has meant in my son’s ability to deal with life when it happens or when mom’s disorganized brain makes a mess of calendaring something on the wrong day. 

http://timnoah.com/

My Garden of Weeden: The perfectly imperfect garden

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

gardenbirdhouse

I love this spot in our somewhat  un-kept yard; it is my canvas of creativity, my place of pondering and my homeschooling laboratory . It is a hobby project that never arrives at being finished, but is an unending task of  creating, digging, weeding, watering, planting and getting dirty. For years I have carved into this rocky soil. I have brought in truck loads of dirt, bags of peat, wheelbarrows of compost and chicken manure. I have gathered rocks from our property, been given rocks and even made cement rocks to form a path for little feet to walk on.  This little garden started as a butterfly shaped flower garden full of flowers,some 17 or 18 years ago, by my first born son; our humble attempt to grow something in this rocky soil. It then expanded into a sensory experience  garden for my son with Down syndrome; He would be able to sit and smell the herbs, touch them and pick them and even eat them. A sand box in the middle where he could sit and play and feel the sand through his fingers and hear the birds and watch the butterflies flutter by. He sat mostly~ he learned to scoot as a toddler, but never crawled. My vision of his little feet pitter-pattering through the paths didn’t really ever come to fruition; He did not walk  until he was 6 years old and needed much support on the uneven surface.

gardenpath2gardenpath3But what a delight this little spot has been for all of our children. A therapy for myself, a never-ending summer project that keeps me outside near the children, a stone’s throw away,  as they play and swim.  It has grown both food and flowers, flowers that have been bouquets for friends or for our evening dinner table, flowers pressed for cards, made into daisy chains or  used to tell stories of old.  gardenpoppy

gardenpot

gardenflower

The herbs used for tea, cooking or stuck in a vase to adding beauty and a refreshing  smell to a room and even sprigs of fennel to chew on with a sweet, licorice flavor our:  “garden candy”.   There are bird houses that  have housed a nest of violet green swallow-tails almost every year and the red bee balm and hollyhocks that grow tall in late summer that become a  playground for hummingbirds and butterflies who flit from flowers to flower in the hot summer days.  The rocks a hidden haven for bugs to live.turned over for observation by a young child whose heart is full of wonder of God’s glorious creation. Green bean tee pee and sunflowers, to find shade under and  strawberries to nibble and cherry tomatoes to eat hot off the vine unwashed dusted with a bit of healthy dirt.  gardenbee

gardenbench

gardehosta

My garden is a continuous mess. There are always weeds growing in the path and a wheel barrow and garden tools and hoses lain in various places always in the way due to interrupted work;it seems they never find that finished placed.  An empty hole in the middle where a small pond once was lies empty waiting for a new liner and baby gold-fish. Part of the stone path is still  undone, just dirt, dust and weeds. But my garden is still a place of peace and delight. It is imperfect. It was never meant to become  a manicured spot of perfection. I am sure there are those who look at my “garden of weeden” and  see the mess and the undone, but when one looks very closely, there is  beauty among-st the weeds, thorns, stones and dreams. gardensunialgardenwaterA  playground for children. A garden they can run through, pick from, dig in and enjoy. I have always loved  that about my garden. No straight rows to stay off of, but a place they can discover, imagine and play.  Sometimes all a child needs to learn is a place where he can  make observations  and delight in. My imperfect garden has always been the perfect fit for us; a discovery center of living science and a play ground full of dirt, rocks, bugs, birds, worms, snakes, frogs and plants. A place to learn and love the beauty of God’s creation. Where it is OK to touch, make observations, smell, taste and a place to get your hands dirty where one can fall in love with the amazing idea that when you plant a tiny seed….God makes it grow!gardenshousegardenshed

gardenglvoes

Some of our favorite gardening and nature books:

Sunflower Houses

Roots, Shoots, Bucket and Boots

Handbook of Nature Study

Nature Journaling

Mary Francis gardening book