When we’re up at the cabin, we’re taking a vacation from more than just school and jobs.
With no internet or cell phone reception, we’re taking a complete break from the outside world.
I don’t bother to take photos, knowing the memories will be preserved by our two older girls. For me, this is more pressure relieved, more space to just be.
The rhythm to our days is stripped down to the simplest needs, natural as breathing.
Up in the mountains, we don’t even have to look at the clock on the microwave if we don’t want to.
Most of the time, we don’t want to.
Breathing out the pressures of myriads of responsibilities and the crowded competition of screen time and screen world.
Breathing in rest of body and soul, unhurried connection with each other and with the fresh beauty of this world God has gifted to us.
The littlest ones revel in the wide porch that wraps around three sides of the cabin. We joke that this porch has more square footage than the downstairs of our house.
It was satisfying to have Joseph and Lindsay up there with us for one overnight.
They set up a tent, as did our older kids, and subsequently most of the children slept outdoors most of the week.
The week started out warm, but grew cooler, until it actually snowed the day before we left to come back home.
So the little ones and I snuggled up cozily by the fire and read books together, or napped in the cabin while the others explored the countryside for hours each day.
The most captivating daytime game this year seemed to be Lord of the Rings Risk.
It’s our time-honored tradition to trade Jelly Bellies before beginning our game of the evening. We don’t commence until trading is complete and everyone has his or her favorites. Fortunately, someone likes the detested mango and buttered popcorn flavors. <grin>
Four happy boys loved staying up late playing games with us this year.
I spent a great deal of time lying about shamelessly, reading to myself, reading to little people, or doing nothing at all for a change.
Except breathing in…and breathing out.
We didn’t know it for sure until later, but I was emerging from the end of the dark tunnel.
Now we can turn around and see its gaping hole, back there.
Back home in our own little neck of the woods, I felt the battle of the Screen begin again, felt it more keenly than before. I don’t want to give up the close connecting time we had in the mountains. I’m longing for genuine and deep relationships with the real people in my life. How can I keep some boundaries in place against the creeping competition of the screen?
What about this screen time is worth more than the real life relational time I’m giving up for it?
It has to pass the Greater Good test.
That soap box summary helps to explain the lengthening distances between my blog posts and the as-yet-unanswered emails in my inbox.
Within our first week home, among other happenings…
…we jumped back into school for the home stretch…
…we celebrated Ben’s second birthday…
…all four of our family’s vehicles needed to go to the shop, but they obviously had to take turns like nice little boys and girls…
…Daniel tore the ACL and both menisci in one knee playing ultimate Frisbee, so has surgery ahead of him this summer rather than ultimate Frisbee…
…and we welcomed a house guest for the weekend followed by Mindy coming home from college, necessitating spring clean-up and transformation of the playroom back into her bedroom!
We wrapped up our family’s academic year on the 15th, but Katie still has weeks to go until her last day on June 10th. To answer a blog commenter, her educational and other special needs are being expertly addressed by the staff in our local, small, self-contained multiple disabilities support classroom. It has been an excellent choice for her.
Here’s Kate-Kate waiting for her school bus, enchanted by the springtime chirps, coos, warbles, and crows of the early birds in our neighborhood.
We were so sorry to hear that her teacher, Mr. Allen, is retiring next month after thirty years of teaching. It looks like she’ll be able to stay in the same classroom, with the same paras who help Katie with eating and pottying. We’re thankful for that continuity, and are confident that she will handle the transition well, as she has consistently shown remarkable resilience.
Mr. Allen was the right person in the right place at the right time for Katie. He gave her such a good start and has brought her so far over the past two years.
We are so grateful for his kind heart and hard work with her. He says about having Katie in his classroom, “She makes everyone’s day just by being Katie!”
Thank you, Mr. Allen, for your dedication and enthusiasm in teaching our happy girl. We will miss you, and we wish you all the best!
Our local school district holds Ophelia Day each year, a field day for students with special needs. Each student is paired up with high school students for the day. Katie’s Ophelia Day buddies guided her through the various activities, and Katie was in her glory!
By May 15th, we were so ready for the open windows and open-ended creative free time of summer, especially after our taste of it at the cabin.
I jumped right in to conquer a few organizational projects that had been put off until we laid our books aside.
The last day of school also traditionally means the older children set their tents up in our woods, and they are always eager to share their space with the younger ones when we give the okay.
And just this week, first thing Monday morning, I started another full time job that will last for an indefinite period of time.
In addition to keeping up with Verity’s neurodevelopmental program, I began potty training her in earnest.
Pray for me. Ha ha!
If you have experience successfully potty training a child with Down syndrome and have tips to pass along, I am all ears!
I’ve laid in a hefty supply of thirst-inducing snacks, juice, both cloth and disposable training pants, and…uh…patience and realism.
She quickly mastered the ability to get all the steps in order independent of prompts or assistance–walking to the bathroom, placing the stepstool in front of the toilet, opening the lid, placing the potty ring on the seat, climbing up onto the stepstool, putting her pants down, and seating herself appropriately.
She now says, “Done,” when she thinks she’s done, usually when she is, sometimes when she wants to be.
However, she hasn’t shown any signs of awareness of needing to go before she goes, or made any move toward the toilet without reminders.
As with her older brothers and sisters, I’m focusing her on the skill of staying clean and dry rather than on producing something at a certain time.
She is taking it in stride for the most part, sometimes growing annoyed toward the end of my shift. Yes, I’ve limited the process to a daily shift that starts as soon as I’m ready after breakfast and ends when Katie gets off the bus. And there are days off when necessary.
This will most likely be the work of many months, so it must be as stress-free and doable as possible. Do I remember writing years ago on this blog that Down syndrome is a marathon, not a sprint?
But for me, it is fulfilling and worthwhile work. There aren’t words fierce or enormous enough to describe the love that wells up and overflows from my heart for her.
Katie enjoys every bit of summer fun she can get after school hours and on weekends, for now.
While at the cabin, I came to the decision to mentally and emotionally let go of my goal of having her bond with me. I felt like I’d been flipping the same light switch on and off for more than three years with no appreciable effect, and it was time to accept that she may simply be unable to attach to one person in any normal and healthy way.
It didn’t really change how I interacted with her, just took the inner pressure off and made it okay with me that there was no real progress happening.
Interesting that she’s made obvious progress in bonding with me since then. A feeding team who assessed her a year ago and again six months ago said a couple of weeks ago that it’s like she’s a different child. Not only is she doing real rotary chewing and hardly doing any stimming between bites now, but they noted that in contrast to the past, she is very tuned into me.
We have no real confidence that we or anyone else knows anything about bonding as it relates to Kate-Kate with her unique history, so make of it what you will! But we wonder whether it’s a phenomenon similar to a previously infertile couple conceiving shortly after giving up and starting the adoption process.
However it is, watching her gain some normality in relation to other people, light up and reach for me when she sees me, talk happily about “Mama,” and pull me in for lots of hugs and kisses is sweetness unsurpassable. And I am indescribably grateful for the gift of this beautiful girl I love beyond words.
The remaining photos are credited to Mindy Walls, taken on Mother’s Day at the little playground near my mother’s grave and at Baskin-Robbins, where we stopped for ice cream afterwards.
We’re delighted that Mindy’s come back to be part of our family now, and proud of her for graduating with a degree in photography. Check out her brand new website, Mindy Walls Photography, and if you’re local, maybe you’d like to give a fledgling photographer a chance and schedule a photo shoot with her! In the meantime, her first priority is to obtain a driver’s license and a job to help pay off her remaining school debt.
So does all this talk of furlough mean the battle is over?
I’m thankful to the Lord for this current peace, but to quote a reader of this blog–
“If living in community with other believers has taught me anything, it’s that God does not protect his children from the ‘worst case imaginable.'”
Terrible tragedies should be occurring at every moment of every day in our lives, and it is God alone who holds them back from us.
And sometimes He does not.
God has not stopped being God as a result.
He will bring about what He purposes to do, and friends, even in the most intense and terrible pain, He is bringing about only good for His children.
God will do what God will do, and I’d rather be suffering with Him than fighting against Him.
More than that…
Colossians 3:3 isn’t a promise of future blessing, it’s how things stand right now, in the present.
“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
During all those years that I felt so safe in Him, and then during all these past months when I felt like an unsafe person living in an unsafe universe with an unsafe God–all this time, no matter what I happened to be feeling at any given time, one truth was and is and will always be true.
I have died, and my life is hidden with Christ in God.
I am eternally safe in Him.