Friday, 19 October 2012

Life with Zachary

Home educating is hard. Throw in a house full of children and living in a foreign country and it gets harder. Add a special needs child and get the picture.

Our third child and second son Zachary was diagnosed with ADHD(Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)/Aspergers Syndrome when he was five years old. Although Zachary does well in school, plays the piano beautifully and is very athletic (he's a green belt in karate), every day is a challenge. Zachary is on medication for his ADHD I know that some of you are shaking your head and wondering how I could medicate my child, that ADHD does not exist, and that it is just a case of bad parenting. So I'd thought I'd share a little bit about Zachary and the road we've travelled.

Zachary was a lovely baby. Ever the charmer, he was always smiling and happy. Life with baby number three was chaotic, but fun!  When Zach was eighteen months old, he received his first MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, whooping cough). I didn't realise it until years later, but this is when our delightful little baby began to change. We assumed he was going through the terrible twos early, with all his crying and temper tantrums that followed the vaccine. It was like someone flicked a switch and changed Zachary's personality. I was confused and heart-broken, thinking that I was just a bad parent and couldn't handle Zach's strong will.

We moved to England when Zachary was three and a half and things went from bad to worse. Within just a few months,we had many people tell me how bad Zachary was and that we had better get him "under control". Starting school with him was a nightmare. He cried and whined at everything and proceeded to colour on the desk, walls and break all his crayons and pencils into little bits in his desk when he was left alone  so I could take care of his little brother. 

When Steve would come home from the church in the evening, I began relating about the day with Zachary...about how I disciplined him constantly and he kept doing the same naughty things all day! I had to hide scissors, markers, and knives and lock windows since Zachary took great delight in making mischief. The strangest part was when I told him about his naughty actions, he was always very remorseful and cried and apologised. I read books, and asked friends and read the Bible looking for answers, but nothing seemed to help.

Finally I decided to search the internet for information on behaviour disorders. As I read through the characteristics of ADHD, it seemed to be perfectly describing our Zachary! I contacted our doctor and began the process of having him tested. The results were that he had ADHD and possibly Aspergers Syndrome as well. It was a hard pill to swallow, but relief as well. We finally could help Zach to achieve success in school and in life!

We did not want to medicate Zachary. We tried changing his diet, supplements and behaviour modification techniques, all to no avail. We agreed to try Ritalin and what a difference it made! Zachary was a completely different child. He was calm and respectful, full of life and began receiving great marks in school.

As he got older, we opted for a different medication (medikinet) which does not build up in the system like Ritalin, but had side affects of sleeplessness and loss of appetite. This worked for a while until this past summer when Zachary's white blood cell count dropped dangerously low. His doctor discontinued the meds and began giving him dexamfetamine sulfate. These new meds have not worked for Zach so we have contacted a private doctor to try and get him on Vivance which has very little side affects and has worked brilliantly for Zach in the past. The biggest problem we are having with getting the medication is that it is new to the UK and difficult to get at the moment and quite expensive! We are trusting the Lord and praying for His direction. We covet your prayers for our family.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Eating Plan

One thing Weight Watchers taught me was how to eat. Of course, now I'm a snob about it and when I hear overweight people say, "I eat healthy" I tend to NOT believe them! At 204 pounds, I thought I was doing ok with my eating. Friends and relatives would actually remark to me that I didn't eat that much...probably true. But the AMOUNT I ate at one sitting and my sedimentary lifestyle attributed to my weight gain.

So this weeks post is a sample of what I try to eat:

Day 1
Breakfast-whole grain cereal (30g), skimmed milk, blueberries (or other fruit)
Lunch-tortillia wrap sammie with 3 thin slices ham (33g),LF mayo (tbsp),rocket and cherry tomatoes, handful of grapes
Dinner-Extra lean beef mince, homemade tomato & veggie sauce, serving of mixed veggies, white pasta (40g)
Snacks- low-fat yogurt (90g), fruit salad, WW toffee bar, sugar-free jello (125g),piece of fruit

Day 2
Breakfast-oatmeal (30g-no sugar added), skimmed milk, blueberries (or other fruit)
Lunch-egg omlet made with an egg skimmed milk, spinach, onions, peppers and mixed green salad with 1 tsp. low-fat salad dressing, orange (or other fruit)
Dinner- salmon fillet cooked in one tsp sunflower oil, brown rice (60 g), steamed spinach and broccoli, fresh fruit salad
Snacks-fat-free yogurt, carrots or other crunchy veg, banana

Day 3
Breakfast-crumpet or 2 slices calorie controlled bread, low-fat spread (2 tsp), honey or nutella (1 tsp), latte made with skimmed milk
Lunch-tortilla wrap sammie again, apple, low-fat yogurt (150g)
Dinner-WW Chicken Curry meal, steamed spinach & green beans, orange, diet coke
Snacks-pear, melon, pot of sugar-free jello

Day 4
Breakfast-whole grain cereal (30g), skimmed milk, banana (or other fruit)
Lunch-Low-fat crackers with low-fat cheese spread or reduced fat cottage cheese, mixed salad greens with cherry tomatoes and cucumber, WW toffee bar
Dinner- 2 low-fat sausages, 1 Yorkshire pudding, 2 tsp. gravy granules, 1 small potato-cooked and mashed, 2 tsp. peas
Snacks-kiwi, apple, low-fat pudding cup

Day 5
Breakfast-1 slice toast (calorie-contolled bread), 1 tbsp nutella, 1 egg (boiled or poached), banana (or other fruit)
Lunch- Low-fat tomato soup, 2 low-fat crackers, 1 tbsp. low-fat humous, carrot & cucumber sticks
Dinner-portion of grilled,white fish (85g), new potatoes (100g),peas (1 tsp), melon
Snacks-banana,sugar-free jello, low-fat yogurt, skinny latte made with skimmed milk

Day 6
Breakfast-Crumpet or 2 slices WW bread, egg (scrambled or poached), grilled tomato, melon (or other fruit)
Lunch-low-fat soup, low-fat bread roll, 1 small can tuna, salad, chopped cucumber, handful of grapes
Dinner- Veggie burger, brown rice (60g), sweetcorn (2 tbsp) and peas (1 tsp)
Snacks-smoothie with no-fat yogurt and fruit, tinned peaches (juice drained)

Day 7
Breakfast-oatmeal-no sugar, skimmed milk, blueberries (or other fruit)
Lunch-low-fat coleslaw, shrimp (60g), low-fat yogurt, banana (or other fruit)
Dinner-Pasta (60g), low-fat sauce, chicken breast, cauliflower, diet coke, apple
Snacks-low-fat humous with veggie sticks to dip, grapes

Try it for a week, exercise for 30 minutes 3 times this week and see if the weight comes off. If it does, you are on your way!

Till next week....ENJOY!!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The End....

As we wind down to the end of another school year, I can't help but feel discouraged. Some home ed years just DON'T go as planned. At the beginning of the year, I write down goals for me and the kids...for school, for character building and discipline issues, and for our spiritual growth. I order curriculum, books, games, or whatever else I think I might need. I organize and replenish my supplies, then step back and think..."This is gonna be a great year!"

The school year begins and the kids and I are feeling great and getting loads done. Then it hits...I can't exactly put my finger on it, but it happens...the point at which I'm discouraged and it rubs off onto the kids.

Let's recap, shall we?

Did it begin when I realized that Emily stopped watching her Algebra dvds and doing ANY math work because it was too hard? And she didn't tell me about her troubles? Maybe it was when I discovered Zachary was only doing half his work in the week because the dvds were boring? Or when he stopped doing math, spelling, history and science because it didn't interest him, like reading did? Or maybe it was when I realized that Jacob DID have a learning problem, possibly dislexia? Or possibly realizing that for some reason Felicity knows all her letters, sounds, and numbers on one day and the very next day knows nothing?

Insert scream here...

Yes, Stephen is my academic and does all his work and gets very good marks on everything he does, but I find him lying on the couch with his DS or playing with the dog, being unkind to his siblings and then having to constantly remind him to do his chores and make his bed EVERY day!!

Frustration is at peak for me. Since all I can see is what I HAVEN'T accomplished this year. So here's a list of what we HAVE accomplished TODAY:

*The littles have learned lots of scripture (hopefully it will move from their minds to their hearts).

*I have taught the littles the Bible from Genesis to Judges and taught the birth, life, death, burial and ressurrection of Jesus.

*We read aloud most every day.

*We've made Wednesday our "baking day". Emily, Jacob and Felicity are becoming quite the bakers and I rarely buy sweets for them anymore.

*Jacob is to be tested for dislexia next week and is now reading (but he still hates it). He reads his Bible nearly every day and does chores without being asked (His favourites are cleaning the car and the back garden).

*Emily has a tutor for math and Steve is checking her assignment book daily. She is doing well with the piano and continues to "inhale" books. She is looking into joining the RAF and has really grown a lot spiritually this year.

*Zachary has forgone most of the dvd's but has agreed to try read the history and science books at least. He has become a wonderful pianist, wood-worker and is excelling in athletics.

*Stephen is starting to do things without being reminded twenty times, being kinder to his siblings and is consistantly reading his Bible. He continues to do well in school and becoming more accomplished in karate.

*Felicity is enjoying being read to and we have less days of her acting like I've taught her nothing in the last nine months. She has a fantastic memory and has learned all kinds of poems and scripture and is doing well in ballet.

At the end of the day, I have to keep reminding myself of this verse: "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Galations 6:9

Monday, 23 April 2012

My Weight Loss Tale

I can hardly believe that I will be attempting to run a 10k in less than a week. Really, it hardly seems possible since only 23 months ago I weighed over 200 pounds and hadn't done anything really physical in a decade. What made me go down the path of weight loss and fitness? Hmmm, let's see...avoiding having my photo taken, not being able to fit on the rides at Legoland, back pain, leg pain and trouble sleeping just to name a few. As a child I was very active...kickball, bike riding, running, swimming. In school, I was a cheerleader and played basketball with my brother. In high school, more cheerleading, volleyball, and basketball. At university, I ate what I wanted and walked and did aerobics. Never did I dream that I would ever be obese.
Yet there it was...slim little size 10 when I got married. No problems with weight until we decided to start a family. As the years went by, and we still didn't have a baby, I turned to food for comfort...add 10 pounds. Then I finally get pregnant with Emily...add another 20 pounds. Then we get called to the mission field and are on deputation for over 2 years...add another 20 pounds. Finally, landed on the mission field, fat and sad...add another 20 pounds! There I was, big and miserable feeling like I could never go back. I knew how much work it would be to lose weight. What if I couldn't do it? Was I doomed to be large forever?
Finally a friend at church asked me to go to Weight Watchers with her and gave me a Jillian Michaels dvd. I said to myself, If I can lose just SOME weight, maybe I can loose ALL of it and become fit again. I daydreamed of being thin, wearing small clothes and Steve and the kids being proud of how I looked. At my first weigh in 4 pounds came off and I knew I was on my way!
It was NOT an easy journey! Many times I got tired of counting points and working out, but my family and friends encouraged me to keep going, so I did. I started getting active again and went from walking to boxing to aerobic workouts to running to Zumba. It was hard work, but I didn't want to grow old and be sick and unhealthy. I have changed and learned how to eat. It helped Steve lowered his cholesterol and the kids are more active and enjoy healthy food. I am 60 pounds lighter and it feels great! I love being fit and want to encourage others to start their own journey. It won't be easy, but soooo worth it! Don't be afraid...JUST DO IT!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Mom v. Teacher

When it comes to home educating I'm torn. The mom in me wants to run her "school" by the seat of her pants! I want to see fun projects, to bake and cook, to work together around the house, to sit and the couch with hot drinks and read for hours, to go the the park on every sunny day, work in the garden (hey, PLANT a garden), travel here and abroad, and the list goes on and on!!!

And...then there's the teacher in me. The one who worked her rear off for 5 years to get her degree, the one who loves chalkboards, bulletin boards, workbooks, and ALL school supplies (I still sniff new packs of crayons and playdoh as if they were roses), who loves charts and schedules, lesson plans (but I still HATE grading papers!) The teacher in me loves science experiments, math "short-cuts" and diagraming sentences! I love watching kids get excited about learning and am thrilled to see that "ah-ha!" moment!

So...the conflict! Do you see it? Home educators are either known as unschoolers (listening to their mommy side, I'm sure) or traditional "home schoolers" or school at home. Somewhere in the middle is me! I crave to tick the boxes when book work is done, but want to say yes to "Hey, Mom, can we make a volcano?!" I want them to pursue their interests, but I want them to have all the classes to put on their transcript for university! Oh, the turmoil that rages within me!

Funny, though, I think this year we have finally found the happy medium. Yes, I have been home educating for nearly 12 years. But each year I grow. I become less absorbed with getting 170 lessons done and more inclined to see that everyone has the "basics" and yet has time to draw, paint, write, read, and learn the piano. We still cook and bake and travel...probably not as much as I'd like, but it's getting done. I see progress in Bible studying and reading, knowing grammar rules and math facts, and I see character developing from hard work. So, it's working for us! Find what works for you!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Art of Hospitality

These past two weeks have been great! We have had a LOT of people to stay in our home: a dear pastor friend, a friend from our home church, and a young college student.

We try to have someone over from our church once a month for a meal. I love being hospitable!! Don't you? So many are afraid to open up their homes because they have a false idea of what being hospitable should be. Do you have a spare room or a spare bed? Or even a comfy couch? Then you can be hospitable! Your guest only needs a comfortable place to sleep, clean sheets, warm food and drink and a smile!

I used to think, "Oh, my house isn't nice enough or we have too many kids, or we don't have a private bathroom for a guest." A million excuses went through my head whenever someone needed a place to stay. But after studying what it truly meant to be hospitable, it surely changed my thinking. Did you know that the Bible talks a lot about hospitality?

Hebrews 13:2..."Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

2 Kings 4:10..."Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither."

Matthew 25:38-40..."When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

We surely minister to people when you have them in your home to stay or for a meal. We have one young couple from our church who we have over on a regular basis for a meal. The husband comes into our home, takes his shoes off, browses my book shelves, and relaxes on my couch. He feels very much at home at our house! What an opportunity we have to minister to people through opening our homes.

Forget the false ideas of having the perfect set up for guests. A sofa that pulls out to a bed, one set of decent towels (mine were given to me) that are only used for company, some recipes for meals that are easy to make, but delicious (lasagna is my standby), and just be ready for guests! Be always on the lookout for things you can add to your home to improve your effectiveness for being hospitable! An interesing tray with coffee, tea, come cakes or cookies and some friendly conversation go a long way in making someone feel welcome. You can make someone feel special just by bringing in a tray laden with hot coffee or tea. Even folks we have around a lot are so impressed with a "tea tray". It doesn't take much effort and even the kids can help and learn themselves to be hospitable.

Don't be afraid to open your home. There are so many blessings and friendships waiting to be had by being hospitable!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

A "Typical" Day

I get asked many times about what we do all day and how I get it all done. My first response is usually, one, the Lord helps me A LOT, and two, I have to schedule and plan EVERY THING! Now don't get me wrong, if you asked me to describe myself, being scheduled is not one of the top ten characteristics! I'm a huge big weakness!

That being said, I have been thinking a lot about what I do in a day, especially when I don't get everything done.  Before I begin though, I'm a huge believer in planners (mine is a paper journal, but many opt for digital-doesn't matter, as long as you have one!) and to-do lists (even if its jotting things down on scraps of paper).

So, a "typical" day:

I wake up around 7am, read my Bible, study, and pray. If the kiddos are still asleep, I exercise then shower. Since Micah is usually awake by the time I'm done praying, my exercise usually has to wait till the afternoon or evening and I throw on some clothes, wash my face and get to the kitchen to throw in the first of 4 to 5 loads of laundry that I do a day and start breakfast. Breakfast used to consist of cereal and toast, but have lately been convicted of actually cooking a hot meal. I've always hesitated cooking hot breakfast (my excuse was that it took too long), but now love doing it!

The kids are usually up by 8 or so and the big kids read their Bibles and start on their morning chore lists. Usually everyone is finished and down at the breakfast table by 9, and we eat breakfast together and Daddy reads the Bible to us or has a short devotion for us.  Everyone does their table chores and I take the littles up to wash up.

The big kids start on their school work and I work with the littles for a couple of hours. By noon most schoolwork is finished and I start another load of laundry and then make lunch (been trying to do more than just sammies then, too!) The kids tidy up their school books and toys while listening to music or turn on "Dogs 101" on the computer. After lunch, table chores get done and story/activity time commences for the littles. Then the big kids finish up their work, read, or work on a hobby, while the littles nap for a couple hours. Mommy ususally grades papers, works on her Avon orders, cleans a bathroom, throws in more laundry, has a cup of coffee and views FB on her phone. Sometimes I use this time to Zumba and take a shower, depending on how the AM went (I try to workout 3-4 times a week).

In the late afternoon we do "4 o'clock chores". Each kid has a room they are in charge of to clean (the goal is to have the house ready by the time Daddy comes home at about half 4). The littles each have a buddy and they help the big kids. If dinner isn't in the crockpot, I start dinner.

After dinner, table chores again, baths and some family time, sometimes a board game, reading aloud, or a little tv. Little kids in bed by 8 and big kids at 8(theoretically...obviously on Wednesday nights we have Bible study at church and bed time is very late and so is wake up time the next day). Mommy works on lesson plans, menu planning, orders Avon, studies for the ladies Bible study or exerices and showers and then collapses on the couch with hubby for an hour before bed time!

Variations of our day include, karate on Monday evenings and Saturday mornings for the big boys, ballet for Felicity on Tuesday afternoons, piano lessons for Emily and Zachary on Thursday mornings and Bible study on Wednesday nights.  Thursday evening is reserved for either a Ladies Bible study (once a month), a Family Feast night (to reward the kids for their hard work, also once a month) or to have a family from our church over for dinner. Friday is usually a field trip or a family day, Saturday we prepare for church, and Sunday we are at church, ususally all day.

So, that's it! How it gets done through careful planning and lots of hard work! Spending time in God's Word and in prayer before I start each day is essential! Without putting the Lord first, there is no way I could do what I do everyday. He is a constant source of strength in my life. Everyday HAS to start with Him first!

Until next time....