Grace: A perfect and free gift

Amazing diversity.  Love this place!

I did have a laugh the other day when I was talking to my husband about this blog.  I’ve blogged so much about my child’s struggles with ADHD.  You only need to cruise around my blog posts to see there may be some adult ADHD happening.  I think I know exactly who he got it from. About one year ago, a sweet lady nominated me for a ‘Verstile Blog’ award.  Really I just think, ‘Adult ADHD blog’ award.  I don’t think I could focus on one topic even if I tried. My friend suggested I go into special education consultancy work.  She said I should create a blog specifically for special ed.  That’s just so funny.  There’s no way I could stay focussed on the one topic.  That’s how scattered and busy my brain is.  Before I’ve  finished thinking about one thing, I’m already considering something different. Versatile indeed! We will go with that for now.  Now onto my post, something entirely different to what I was just writing about.  Stay with me.

I wanted to write about something very important to me, grace. You can receive grace, greet people with grace, be saved by grace, be strengthened by grace, filled with grace, share grace, parent with grace, be gracious. The list goes on.  But it suddenly dawned on me, what actually is grace? We hear this term used often.  Christian or not, it’s used often.  It is used over 150 times in the New Testament of the Bible alone.  Some people call the Gospel in the Bible,  the Gospel of Grace.  We assume we know what it is, using the term, but do you actually know what it means? 

I’ve enjoyed exploring the Bible, articles, podcasts etc in trying to find out what grace means.  My favourite example of grace was in a podcast sermon about grace.  Imagine you were speeding and a policeman pulled you over.  Grace would be to not only let you off with warning (that would be mercy), but for the officer to then give you money to fix your broken headlights.  In light of this example, the meaning of grace is a free, unmerited gift.  The grace of God is the free gift of salvation to the undeserving because of our sin. You can then understand how the Gospel can be called the Gospel of Grace.  It’s the story of God’s free gift to everyone. It has nothing to do with people’s good works, it is free undeserved goodness.  Now that I’ve got this understanding of grace under my belt, I’ve now got to work out how to parent with grace. Oh my, watch this space. That’s if I can stay focussed on this topic long enough.

Climb aboard the food allergy train

   

Part of my day to day navigating life business, I navigate a silly amount of food allergies. Some for me, some for the kids and our baby.  As part of finding gratitude in all things, I have to say I’m thankful that none of these are life threatening.  However, if I slip up and give one particular child foods he shouldn’t have, my own life is threatened. He loses all control and turns into an aggressive, mean beast, and threatens to kill me. Nice!

The most difficult part of dealing with food allergies and kids, is actually breastfeeding a baby with suspected allergies.  The early days are the trickiest when you aren’t sure exactly what is upsetting their system.  You cut out the usual suspects of chocolate, dairy and soy (most of this family can’t handle those foods). The reflux and unsettled behaviour improves, but you can tell something is still upsetting them. They have a particularly bad day and you blame yourself, desperately trying to analyse everything you’ve eaten in the last few days.  This is a rather difficult task when you are so sleep deprived. You are already doing silly things like accidentally reaching for a nappy to put on yourself instead of underwear.  Trying to remember what you ate yesterday is a hard task, as is remembering to write down everything you eat to help you track it. Anyway, I’m over having to analyse what I eat and trying to cut out suspect foods.  I’ve been doing this for 8yrs and it doesn’t get any easier. So far, we are dairy, soy, chocolate, banana and gluten free.  That’s all the good things.  But, oh the guilt you experience when your baby has a flare up and is chocking because they can’t breathe because of their reflux response to whatever you’ve eaten, helps you stick to this silly diet. I’m trying so hard. It’s just hard to see milk that should nourish this little guy’s body, cause pain and discomfort. It’s not fair.  Even if I decided to give him formula, the hypoallergenic one he’d need is about $40 a can. That is just not an option.

So, as I starve because I’m out of food ideas to eat, and plough through the food detective game filled with guilt and sadness to see a little one in pai, I will continue to work on being thankful for our little guy and foods that we can actually eat without pain. Just praying that all milk he drinks will be a blessing to his little body. Who would’ve thought breastmilk would need this kind of prayer?

The vaccination debate…in my head!

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There comes a time when you’ve read WAY too much in life. 8yrs ago when we had our first child, giving vaccinations was something we felt needed barely any consideration. Of course you give them, why on earth wouldn’t you?!

8yrs down the track, all of a sudden on vaccination day, I’m questioning, feeling guilty and relief all in one.  Many parents have testified that vaccinations changed their child. It gave them Autism. Parents know their kids so well that I can believe that statement. For some, genetically Autism was already there, but maybe hadn’t become apparent yet, so perhaps a coincidence. For some, maybe not. For some, the vaccinations absolutely caused their child to change. Vaccinations are full of heavy metals etc that can do that. Now through extensive treatment with a Biomed doctor, some are slowly getting their child back, some are not.  All these testimonies and arguments, I can believe for sure. I have a child on the spectrum, I understand the grief, stress, and sadness these parents can experience.

On the other hand, vaccinations save lives. That’s the reason they were made. Simple. My world came crashing down in 2015 when my 7 week old got Whooping Cough. It was a devastating time seeing my little person struggle so much.  Thankfully she had a milder case, so didn’t need hospitalization.  Turns out part of the reason it was milder was probably because I had been vaccinated prior to the pregnancy, so I was passing antibodies through my breast milk.  THANK GOODNESS!

Can you see why I sit on the fence and feel guilty and relief at the same time on vaccination day? Do I choose Autism, particularly when severe, can rob someone of their life? Or, do I choose to vaccinate and prevent life threatening illnesses? Whooping Cough or Autism? Whooping Cough or Autism. It’s not an easy choice, especially when you’ve experienced both!

Play parties: When large families have friends over

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Oh the chaos. Oh the noise.  This mumma duck is still getting used to the size of her family.

We had a play date today.  Can you call it a play date when you already have so many kids? I think not. I’m officially renaming play dates in our family, Play Parties! Seriously, you add an extra child or two to my five kids and there is so much extra noise, chaos, and fun, it feels like a kids party.  When the friends left this afternoon, I needed a nap.

I’m having fun wading through the big family waters, although I know especially in the Middle East, 5 kids isn’t really that big.  As a teacher, 5 kids is manageable, but for me, it’s the noise that kills me.  Some days, I wonder whether I’m the one with Sensory Processing Disorder, and not my child. The excessive amounts of noise coming from kids with shocking volume control makes me stressed! It makes me want to hide in a corner with my hands over my ears and rock.  Yes, yes, it does.  This is one of the big skills I am still to learn as a mum of lots of kids, how do I stop the noise from causing stress? It’s not fair on the kids that I get stressed and grumpy with them.  They didn’t choose to have a big family so it’s no way fair to get cross with them.  As part of my new year (as mentioned in my previous post), I’m trying really hard to have a heart of gratitude. I want to find more joy this year and to do this I’m working hard in having gratitude in every moment. Having thankfulness in all situations, is changing my attitude and renewing my joy every day.  I guess this is why I’m feeling so proud of my big tribe.  I’ve been working through the things that are stressing me out, and finding joy in those moments.  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2). I love the book of James, but I was finding it way too challenging to find joy in tough situations that would arise.  By focussing on gratitude and looking for the positive in challenging moments, I’m having way more success. For instance, rather than getting down and frustrated at the noise, I try to smile and thank God for my awesome tribe of mini Thorpes, or the particular clown causing the chaos.  I find I smile more and frown less throughout my days. Nobody is perfect, so there will be days that I forget to try and find gratitude, and end up in a stressed, frazzled mess.  For those days, I think I need ear plugs!

Does the noise of your large family cause you stress or is it just me?

Tornado Max: Embracing the storm

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I wake each day wondering what the weather will be like in our house.  We have a particular little person who is the weather man in our house.  For reasons beyond our predictability, he will wake angry at everything and everyone, defying EVERY single request, or he may wake peaceful.  Even he doesn’t know why the weather is the way it is. But, one thing is for sure, the second you know it’s a stormy day with a chance of tornados, you have to embrace yourself, put on your armor of God, yes, but also equip yourselves with your storm gear, or else the tornado will whip through the house leaving nothing but debris and emotionally exhausted people.  I try and stand strong but sometimes I get swept up in the tornado and spat out once it’s done.

When I write it down, the reality of the intensity of our day to day life living with an emotionally unstable and intense kiddo is apparent.  The hard part is, when the storm is raging and the tornados are coming, I know this isn’t my kid.  The anger, aggression and defiance is not the child I gave birth to.  This is the extremely frustrating part. It’s devistating. I don’t get the super calm, chilled, summer vacation kind of weather in our home often, but when I do, it’s divine.  It makes me teary because I get to see a glimpse of my actual son. Unfortunately it only comes a few times every three months or so.

There are a few things that I’m doing to try and help him with some success which I’d like to share in hope they might also give anyone experiencing our challenges with some tools to use:

Detox that stuff out 

Straight to a hot bath with Epsom Salts.  I put on some candles, an audio book and leave him be for about 30mins.  Goodness, maybe I should lock myself in the bathroom and give myself a calming bath too.  How good would that be?! With 5 kids, it’s something I can only dream of doing.

Supplements

We have started working with a Biomed doctor. She has really helped so far.  He is definitely slowly improving with her help. Citrate Mag and Zinc helps his farm to be more calm.

Emotional control

We use the Zones of Regulation for our son.  It’s a wonderful tool to teach children to recognise their emotions and how to get them to their calm, happy place.  They learn what each zone is like (ie, in the Red Zone my body is angry. My hands get sweaty, my words are loud).  They then decide on a few activities they can do to get out of that zone back into their calm and happy Green Zone.  This tool has been really helpful, especially in my husband and I having a common language to use with our son, and pre established activities that can be used when he is struggling in the red zone (the chart is on his wall for quick reference). I highly recommend this.

Diet

Histamines are his ANGRY foods.  Especially Cocoa, bananas, anything with starters like yoghurt or cheese, probiotics and tomatoes turn him into a beast. We have to watch his diet very carefully.

Exercise

Being out in nature without any boundaries or expectations help because to add to the fun, when the storm is about, oppostional defiance accompanies it.

Hugs

During the storm, aggressiveness and impulsivity kindly join us alongside the ODD.  We have a ‘no excuse for abuse’ rule in our house.  Whether it be a verbal or physical abuse incident, its consequence is timeout and making amends.  It’s important that he takes responsibility for his actions, even if he didn’t mean to.  But, there are some days he is struggling so much that when he is in the midst of a tornado, when asked ‘do you need a hug?’, it is usually met with a ‘yes’ and sob from both of us. We usually spend some time in prayer together at this point too.

It’s our heartbreaking reality.  I keep praying for my calm, happy guy to hang around more consistently. Our Biomed doc is giving me hope this may just be around the corner. I sure hope so, as it’s this kind of hope that keeps me going.


Happy New Year: Pressing stop and restarting the year.

I don’t normally write the title first, but as I was reaching for my IPad to write this post, I couldn’t help but feel excited about the year ahead.  It indeed feels like a new year.

The past 18mths has been the hardest yet of my expat adventures.  I thought leaving behind Jerusalem was a brilliant idea.  It was.  Living in Jordan has been like a vacation in terms of the change of countries.  We definitely left behind intensity, insecurity and uncertainty in our day to day living, for a place of peace and hospitality.  But I also left behind some very dear friends who I miss so much.  I didn’t really take into account having to make new friendships and a new life.  Not sure why I didn’t, but I didn’t.  With a hardworking husband travelling most of this year for work, it has left me utterly burnt out.  Trying to homeschool an extremely defiant, aggressive kid whilst taming my awesome toddler and other two lads, whilst pregnant, had drained my inner being.  What’s worst? I haven’t made a close nit group of friends.  To be honest, trying to homeschool and just survive, I haven’t had a huge opportunity to get out there and make friends.  This made me feel pretty lonely and down at some points and resentful of husband at times, even if he was going out for work dinners.  I wanted in too!

It’s nice being able to type this in reflective mode, knowing that a massive change is coming through, hence the beginning of a new year, or new season.  I feel light, enthusiastic and happy.  My homeschooler has gotten a place in our top school of choice.  He is sooo happy there, in fact, thriving.  Homeschooling him was an important time.  It was a time of growth for him, particularly in his love for learning, and confidence as a learner.  It’s nice to be able to send him back off into the world knowing that he is thriving.   Considering school used to be a high stress point for him. This homeschooling time wasn’t light and fluffy though, oh no, no, it wasn’t.  Trying to teach a defiant child was sometimes like hell.  I had many inward and outward tantrums, many of which I’m not proud of.  But, some of the battles he put up were beyond ridiculous!  Homeschooling really did put a strain on our relationship.  We needed the space from each other, it was way too intense. School is the perfect breath of fresh air that we needed.

Anyway, we have a newborn in the house again.  Three kids have started back at school and a toddler at home. The world is my oyster, so they say.  I’ve started arranging play dates, Bible Study, and in a few months will begin playing sport again.  I’m thrilled to have a piece of me back that was missing for so long.  Not to mention, my hardworking husband has got a new position which has barely any travel too.  See why I call this a new year?  It sure feels like it. It’s time to thrive rather than barely survive.  It’s time to laugh and smile again, rather than frown and cry.  It’s time to press ‘go’, moving forward to a place of joy and contentment with where we are and where we are going in God’s grand plan.