So we aren’t the only ones….

…cancelling Christmas this year (See blog: Why My Husband and I Cancelled Christmas). However, in our case it was the KIDS that chose to cancel Christmas. We haven’t travelled for Thanksgiving in quite a few years because we live 8+ hours away from family and we always turn around and go right back for Christmas a couple weeks later. However, this year the kids saw some pictures from Thanksgivings’ past and really wanted to go be with the family. I knew there was no possible way that I could do everything that must be done to care for their allergies, homeschooling, work, etc AND travel for Thanksgiving, put up the tree, put up the lights, get ready for Santa Claus, do all those holiday things, etc and travel for Christmas!!! So I told them that they had a choice: Either we could travel to see family for Thanksgiving and Christmas and only celebrate Chanukkah at our house OR we could do Thanksgiving at home, the tree, the lights, Santa, Chanukkah, and travel for Christmas. The kids decided that they would rather go see family for Thanksgiving and Christmas and only do Chanukkah at our house. I have to admit I was pleased with their decision in much the same way that I am always proud when Jessica tells me “My favorite part about Christmas is going to see Poppa!” People are much more important than stuff, and it pleases me when I catch moments where my kids grasp that. In reality we are still having Christmas in that we will go see family at Christmas and enjoy their tree, their lights, baking cookies in their kitchens, experiencing holiday traditions, and exchanging gifts with them. We are just limited our Christmas to making memories with our extended family…and we will still be lighting our Chanukkah menorah and giving each of them a Chanukkah gift before we leave…..so it’s not like we’re all a bunch of grinches! ;-) As far as “the spirit of the season” or “the reason for the season” goes….the Good News that Immanuel has come is something that I am trying very hard to keep with us all through the year and to let it permeate every part of our daily lives so that it continues to affect our choices and behavior on a daily basis. I want it to be a year long effort…the effort I put into being Jesus to others in December I want to be able to replicate in January, February, March, etc….after all, how might the world be different if we kept “the spirit of the season” with us all year long?

We’re Famous Again…

We have now officially made it into all 3 of our local newspapers on 3 separate occasions! I said earlier this week that I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not when your family is “unusual enough” that you end up in the local paper 3 times…

Northwest Floriday Daily News-1http://www.nwfdailynews.com/local/chickens-and-their-owners-are-flocking-to-navarre-photos-1.344980?tc=cr

Crazy Acre Farm

There have been many changes around Crazy Acre Farm recently (what my husband calls our small town homestead)!! First of all, we currently have 40 chickens and ducks in our backyard (at least until it is time to butcher the meat birds) with the addition of a rooster!!

The kids have named him Rocky. Isn't he cute??? He is a Golden Polish.

The kids have named him Rocky. Isn’t he cute??? He is a Golden Polish.

A friend of mine hatched a bunch of eggs this year and almost all of them turned out to be roosters! Since you can only have one rooster per so many hens or so much space (without lots of fighting), she had been working on getting rid of them. Unfortunately she was unable to get anyone to take the last two, so she asked if we would like to butcher them for dinner. I told her that would be great, but this little guy was so cute and sweet (he was definitely NOT the dominate rooster) that we decided to keep him!!! David is VERY against having a crowing rooster though (doesn’t want trouble with the neighbors given our already good sized flock) so we have been training him with a homemade anti-crow collar. Rocky is not a big fan of the collar, but he prefers it to becoming soup! We only use it for training purposes, and it seems that he does not crow in the mornings. He only seems to crow when the flock wants more food….which we are ok with!

It is just a piece of 2" wide industrial strength velcro from the hardware store. It is adhesive so we stuck the hook side and loop side together using the adhesive.

It is just a piece of 2″ wide industrial strength velcro from the hardware store. It is adhesive so we stuck the hook side and loop side together using the adhesive. Then we just wrap it around his neck. You really don’t have to get it tight. The trick is making sure it is long enough.

This is a shot of David feeding a majority of our flock peas....they LOVE peas!!!!!

This is a shot of David feeding a majority of our flock peas….they LOVE peas!!!!!

And another shot of Rocky

And another shot of Rocky

And a shot of Jessica feeding some of our chickens out of her hand!

And a shot of Jessica feeding some of our chickens out of her hand!

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I also finally got the porch cleaned up!!!!

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We’ve also had some changes around the inside of our Farm House due to some behavioral issues. It started with some ungrateful attitudes, so I took all of their toys and locked them in a closet. That ended up working so well, that we stripped their room mostly bare and have had a much better time getting them to sleep! We also took away the tablets for the same reason. They do occasionally get them, but their behavior is better without them. My kids are sensory seekers, but I think even though they seek stimulation, they were getting overstimulated. Then we had an issue with one of the children pooping on the floor and hiding it (yes even kids with Autism that can talk and understand sometimes have pretty big toileting issues)…..sooooo……we ended up putting them in two separate rooms (besides that we have trouble getting them to keep their clothes on in their rooms and with a boy and a girl that just seemed to be asking for trouble). It required an entire weekend of moving furniture around to make it work, and a week or two after that of me find places for everything that used to be in some of those rooms! But it looks GREAT now!!!!

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Jessica’s new room!

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We kept it rather spartan to make sure she wasn’t too overstimulated but also to make it easier for her to keep it clean. We have had a difficult time getting her to clean her room, and I think she usually is just overwhelmed by all the things that need to be put away.

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A view of the whole room. Jessica’s art teacher (we hire a college student to come to the house and teach Jessica art) is helping her paint a garden theme on the walls in her room! (and isn’t the garden outside her room pretty???)

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These are two water fairies Jessica drew, and her art teacher painted!

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These are some butterflies they had done previously. The two on the right are Jessica’s, and the two on the left are her art teacher’s!

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A view of the door going out into the hallway.

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I had to put in a picture of the bathroom because if you can see in that cabinet, I have gone to great lengths to have all natural hygiene products!!!

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And now we come to John’s room!

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I keep a quilt spread out for him to play on as we haven’t been able to remove the polyester carpet in his room yet.

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Maybe when he quits drawing on the walls, etc I will decorate his room…

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And he has really enjoyed “making food” recently, so we moved the play kitchen into his room with a small table!

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With all of these changes, I had to change up the furniture in our room as well, and it does finally look like a room instead of a closet where I would throw everything to keep the kids out of it!

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Definitely has an antique feel to it, and I like it!!

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And in this shot you can see the large gun cabinet and tv in the mirror…not quite so antique….

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In order to avoid throwing stuff back into our room, I cleaned out the laundry room so I would have a space for all of my projects (painting, sewing, etc)….a larger room would have been ideal….but this is all that was left outside of the room and closets that David uses. But, I like it….it’s bright, cheerful, and cozy! :-)

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What can I say? I have a gift for maximizing small spaces! :-) I want to hang a finished cross-stitch piece over the thread rack, but that would require me actually finishing it….

I also went to the trouble of installing locking doors on: the pantry, the laundry room, Jessica’s bedroom, the bathroom, David’s office, our bedroom, and our craft/toy closet to keep John OUT!!!! There is also a lock on John’s door so he can be locked in his room in the event that I need to make sure he doesn’t get into anything dangerous. His language seems to be developing very atypical. We are about to get an EEG, IQ test, Hearing evaluation, and a Speech evaluation to try and get to the bottom of it. The problem is that he sounds perfectly normal, but once you really talk to him, he will answer questions very oddly. For example, “John what is your picture of?” “This is how you do it because this is how you do it!” or “John how did you hurt yourself? What did you hurt yourself on?” “I hurt myself because I hurt myself!!” Can’t argue with his logic, but on the whole, it is rather useless. I have recently started teaching him to read again because that is how we taught him to say “I love Mommy.” Funny thing is that he has no problem memorizing new words, but he has had the hardest time with figuring out HOW to read (going from left to right, top to bottom, and understanding that when I point to a word that means I want him to read it, oh and which word am I trying to point at)! Jessica on the other hand is so painstakingly slow that it makes you want to stab yourself in the eye!!!!! It’s not her fault. It is definitely a processing problem because sometimes she will give me a synonym of the word she is reading….so somewhere between taking in what the word is and then trying to communicate that back to me….we get really stalled out!!! It is just going to take LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of practice to build up those neural pathways!!!!!

I made John a new pair of shoes the other day! He calls them his "Jesus Shoes."

I made John a new pair of shoes the other day! He calls them his “Jesus Shoes.”

We have lots of big appointments this week and over the next month or so to try and figure out John’s processing issue (or if it is seizures or something else) and all of our autoimmune/food issues. We had been trying to add all foods back in to get a complete list of which foods cause what symptoms and just ignore my arthritis (hoping that it was not food related), but I got to be in so much pain that we had to stop. We got some bloodwork drawn, and all of our numbers were off. Interestingly (although not really surprising to me), I tested as not having a rheumatoid factor but having a high white count, low platelet count, and high Eos, likely indicating some type of allergic reaction. I have been able to verify a few things in the last couple weeks though: 1) I cannot tolerate even minute amounts of gluten or soy 2) Legumes are NOT my friend 3) Sugar does not appear to be my friend 4) John does NOT do well with corn or dairy. Hopefully they will have some new ideas for us because we have tried most diets now, and the only thing that doesn’t leave me in debilitating pain is a diet of rice, soy-free meat, bananas, and one or two veggies.

I could use prayers for peace, patience, wisdom, and guidance….and I think our immunologist could use prayers for wisdom and guidance as well (he’s been such a blessing but I think we have been a bit of a challenge to try and figure out)!

***Oh! And I almost forgot!! By the end of the week, we should have 10 more baby chicks (Cornish Hens)….bringing the total on our property up to 50!!!! Yikes!!!! :-)

Really?!?!?!

Really?!?!?! Is this the best idea for a study on Autism researchers can come up with???? Their breaking new discovery is that parents of children with Autism often have some traits of Autism?!?!?!!? Come on people!! Let’s try to do a study that might actually be USEFUL!!!!!!!!!!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/07/parents-of-children-with-autism-more-likely-to-have-traits_n_5564187.html

These are the moments

I don’t have a lot of great pictures this week, but I’ve had lots of moments that I have tucked away in my mind.

1) John had an EEG done to determine if he might be having seizures. He was very cooperative and well behaved during the entire appointment (the xray techs said the same thing when he broke his collar bone). We did not end up catching a seizure on the EEG, but they did note that his brain activity is slowed. (This is not uncommon in kids with developmental delays.) We will be doing a 48 hour EEG as soon as it is scheduled, and the neurologist’s office asked if we might be interested in a referral to a Neuropsychologist. Since we already have a diagnosis, I told them that we will pursue some further psychological testing to look at his processing but that we are not interested in another complete evaluation at this time. I was glad that the slowed brain activity showed up on his EEG because for the first time (outside of John’s physical therapist), I actually have doctors taking my concerns serious. Both of my kiddos are very talented at “faking it till you make it” (I think they got this from their mother…), and unfortunately, this often convinces medical professionals during the brief period of time in which they see the kids that there are no developmental delays.

2) I had decided to start Jessica on Year 1 of Ambleside Online’s free Charlotte Mason curriculum and John on Before Five in a Row, a unit study for 2-4 year olds. Unfortunately, I got about halfway through planning John’s curriculum for the fall before I realized that he is NOT comprehending a lot of the stories I am reading to him! He will sit and listen to them like he is really interested, but when you ask him questions, his ability to tell you what the story was about, what the pictures are of, etc is limited at best. After an absolute panic (in which I checked to make sure that Jessica’s curriculum for next term wouldn’t be too difficult as well….it seems to be just about right thankfully!), I decided to start using some very simplistic board books and picture books that I had saved from when we went through this with Jessica. The idea is that since you usually use listening comprehension to increase reading comprehension….why not do it in reverse by using reading comprehension with the aid of pictures to increase listening comprehension?!? We did this with Jessica as well, and it appears that the key was to start at her developmental speech level when selecting books. With John this is a bit more tricky because he always tested normal for speech (he also memorized the test after only doing it once) and he is currently out of therapy because they couldn’t really identify his delays clearly with their assessment tools. I am planning this fall (once we have finished the books I kept from Jessica) on doing an entire term of Eric Carle Unit Studies. Hopefully, we will be ready to start Before Five in a Row in the spring.

3) I have gotten back on track with celebrating Jewish holidays. I had let it slide during some of our most restrictive elimination diets because it would be hard for the kids to let go of certain foods. But I have concluded it is not about the food. It is about taking time to rest. I think God made Shabbat for people like me who must be “forced” into a habit of resting. It has been very good for me. I have taken time to read, journal, paint, listen to music, read Hebrew, watch some Dr. Who with my husband, etc. We originally started celebrating Jewish holidays in order to teach the kids about God. It was the only thing I found that worked, and I have found it to be a great tool for continuing to teach our family about God as well as helping to focus our calendar year on God….You can’t have a Shabbat rest unless you spend all week preparing to be able to take a Shabbat rest!

Fall Tree

A painting I finished last weekend that I am giving my Dad for his birthday.

A watercolor I did this weekend of Jessica....she was rather perturbed because her "hair is NOT pink!"

A watercolor I did this weekend of Jessica….she was rather perturbed because her “hair is NOT pink!”

4) I have decided to try adding back in all foods to get a complete list of which foods cause stomach cramps or diahhrea. I am trying to not pay attention to variations in my arthritis at the moment….unless of course it becomes unbearable. We are still GFCFSF, and we are trying to make choices about food that are anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory to hopefully keep our bodies as calm as possible. I am also trying to focus on the importance of reducing stressors as that can increase histamine and inflammation. We’ll see how this goes….

5) This week Jessica took some beading I had done several years ago for a costume of hers out of my room after I told her not to (I had been saving it for later) and broke some of it. For me this was the last straw. For many years Jessica couldn’t understand the instructions I gave her. As time has gone on she has understood more, but there was never a “Ok now she understands and processes it all”….she still has moments where she does not understand. We have also had some more behavioral issues crop up recently (poor sleep, arguing, etc). So….I told them after I found the broken beading that I was taking away ALL of their toys! I took them all out that night, pitched a couple, but most of them I stored in our craft/toy closet and locked it. I also took away the tablets as well. Wouldn’t you know that we have had MUCH better behavior, sleep, and interactions this week!!! I do get them toys out, but they can only get out one or two at a time. They have spent more time playing outside, having tea parties together, and dressing up than usual, and I am loving it! I gave them the tablets back for Shabbat, but they are about to loose them again for the next week. I think that all of the toys and tablets are just too overstimulating and that’s why we end up with behavioral and sleep issues.

6) John came into my room today with a toy knife from one of his daddy’s X-men figures and told me he needed to brush my hair with the knife. After he did this he said, “Now you look beautiful!” Some of the things he says just don’t make sense, but then there are other things that are just so cute!!!!

7) Jessica has made a habit of coming into my room about the time her daddy goes to work and going back to sleep on his side of the bed. I must admit I find this to be pretty cute because when she was a baby her daddy would bring her to me in bed to eat and nap as he was leaving for work. Nice to see such an old routine spontaneously re-establishing itself. :-)

Those are some of the moments from this week. Mostly I had feelings that my world had become unordered with all of the unknowns floating around concerning John’s development, but we have met the challenges and have our next step mapped out. Planning to further evaluate this next week with regards to where we are and where we want to be going, so that I make sure that the path we are on is the path we want to be on.

The Jewish Background of the Lord’s Prayer

Last night I reread The Jewish Background to the Lord’s Prayer by Brad H. Young. Although I have read this book before, this time I was particularly struck by the implications of the Lord’s Prayer when approached from a Hebraic perspective (since Jesus would have been praying in Hebrew) because it completely alters the traditional Christian view of how we should pray! I think I was particularly struck reading it this time because I read it through the lenses of my life experiences of the past 7 years because through it all I have come to recognize that these are the kinds of prayers God is ALWAYS willing to answer in the affirmative. I prayed one of these prayers 7 years ago, and though the answer has brought all kinds of earthly challenges, I would not go back and loose everything I have learned in a Kingdom sense.

Most of the time when I hear people speaking about the Lord’s Prayer and consequently how we should pray, I hear them talking about formulas and what to include, but when you view the Lord’s Prayer from a Hebraic perspective, there is no formula or list of things to include because it boils down to ONE thing! The entirety of the Lord’s Prayer is to align our will with God’s will.

Our Father who is in Heaven – defines who God is and our relationship to him…that he is a loving and caring Father who provides, protects, and disciplines his children….and that we as his children have a responsibility to Him. It also points out that God is not solely MY Father but OUR Father. That we are all in community with each other where God’s Kingdom plan is concerned and that we must act in community with each other. (even though throughout I mention the individual or petitioner, the strength of this prayer is in the way it has been written to be prayed as a community)

May all the world recognize and sanctify your name – the primary concern of my heart is that all the world will recognize and sanctify your name and that I will that my entire purpose would be to reflect your glory so that all will give glory to God.

May your will, or Kingdom plan, be done in heaven and in earth – this does not deal with discerning God’s will because God’s will is already known through Scripture (Psalm 40:8) but with further emphasizing the intent of the previous line….the kingdom plan is a longterm plan that is partially established along the way all the way back to Genesis and Exodus.

Give us the portion assigned to use – or “the food that is needful to me” as in Proverbs 30:8 which is not a request for necessary food, shelter, etc. According to Brad H Young, “When a person petitions God, he does not ask for wealth, but rather for his assigned or determined portion. This portion is what would be needed for sustenance–neither wealth nor poverty, but what is needed according to God’s plan.” In other words, the petitioner goes from declaring his desire for God’s will and Kingdom plan to be accomplished in heaven and earth, to requesting that God give him/her the portion necessary to do whatever it is that God has assigned to him/her.

Forgive us our debts (failings, sings, personal debts, moral obligations, etc), as we also have forgiven our debtors (those who have done us wrong) – the petitioner goes from requesting what is necessary to do whatever God has asked of him/her to asking that God be forgiving when the petitioner falls short of his/her task, but the petitioner also makes a point of saying that he/she has already forgiven his/her own debtors. This is necessary because before we can approach God, we must learn to forgive others because only then can we see them as God sees them and only then can we align our will with His will.

Do not bring us into the grasp of temptation but deliver us from the evil one – This is a plea that God will lead the petitioner away from 1) the internal temptation which results from our evil impulses/sinful nature and 2) the external evil force/satan that seeks to master or influence mans’ will. This is important because it shows that the petitioner recognizes that he/she will fail God in the future in the tasks that God has set before him/her and that he/she desires more than anything to be able to withstand these in order to fulfill God’s purposes with his/her life.

Basically, when Jesus says, “This, then, is how you should pray,” (Matthew 6:9), His point is NOT a step-by-step how-to on prayer. His point is WHAT you should pray for, WHERE your heart and will should be, and WHO you should be striving to be!!! “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they make up the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:3 The “poor in spirit” are Jesus’ disciples, who have accepted God’s authority in their lives (aka not a strong will of their own) and have become active in Jesus’ Kingdom movement. If we want to be apart of God’s Kingdom, then we must be “poor in spirit,” and the only way we can do that is by aligning ourselves with God’s will through prayer, specifically the Lord’s Prayer.

Let It Go — Autism Style!!

Usually, I don’t post so much in one day (I’m already working on a third post….), but I just came across this link to a young lady on the Autism Spectrum performing Let It Go! with original lyrics specific to Autism. In the description, she states “It also goes out to everyone on the AS spectrum, especially the girls, and especially the girls that weren’t diagnosed until adulthood. This song reflects mostly how I felt growing up.” Can I just say “AMEN!!!!!!” MUCH of this resonates with me!!!!!!! I took the time to type out the lyrics below, and my thoughts are below that.

My computer glows bright in my bedroom tonight
I’m sometimes heard, but rarely seen
A kingdom of isolation
And it looks like I’m the queen
My meltdowns illustrate this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well now they know
Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go, stand up straight and tell them more
I don’t care what they’re going to say
Let this girl stim on
The stares never bothered me anyway
Actually, that’s a bit of a lie – please don’t just stare
Ask some questions if you’re curious
It’s funny how support makes ignorance seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
Clear right, clear wrong, many rules for me
‘Cause that’s my “free”
Let it go, let it go, I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go, you’ll sometimes see me cry
Here I stand, and here I’ll stay
Let this girl stim on
My imagination is just limitless it seems
I may have difficulties but that will not stop my dreams
And one thought imprints in my brain at long last
I can forgive myself, the past is in the past
Let it go, let it go, and I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go, my “perfect act” is gone
Here I stand, in the light of day
Let this girl stim on – Autism never bothered me anyway
Actually, sometimes it does, but I think that kinda comes with the territory
But my point is to stand up, and be proud that you’re on the Autism Spectrum

I am one of those girls who was not diagnosed until I was an adult (after my children were diagnosed). I HAD been tested an diagnosed, but the Aspergers studies had not been translated into English yet and so I was diagnosed with ADHD and an Auditory Processing disorder. Not having a clear explanation of why I was the way I was, I felt badly about my temper (which turned out to be meltdowns from overstimulation), my difficulties in school, social problems and other behaviors that were considered to be inappropriate. I also knew that people perceived my behavior to be weird, odd, or inappropriate, and so I spent a great deal of my childhood learning to “pretend” by carefully observing the behavior of others and carefully monitoring my own behavior…to a bit of an obsession (which is why I am so good at pretending)! With the advent of the computer and the internet, for the first time I was able to “socialize” without having overstimulation, meltdowns, atypical behavior, etc get in the way, but even still it has continued to be difficult for me to really open up and let people in. I talk so much and am so honest that most people think that I am really open with them, but the truth is that it is still VERY difficult for me to let people in. I also had a very difficult time (and still do) with getting people to understand what I am trying to communicate. The only times my husband and I have arguments, they are always because I can’t communicate what I want to say and get frustrated, and then he thinks that I am mad and behaving irrationally…..but once we realize that I just can’t communicate what I want to get across, it’s not a big deal. Once I realized that I had Aspergers and not ADHD/APD, it was very freeing because suddenly who I was made sense to me, and I didn’t have to feel badly about being me! Of course I am not defined solely by Autism, but it does explain a lot. And there are parts of Autism that I am proud are apart of me….such as the character it has developed in me, my creativity, my drive and determination, my tenacity and ability to look at a puzzle and see the whole, etc. However, there are still challenges and I am convinced that my kids’ levels of functioning is greatly impacted by their immune functioning, specifically with regards to how their immune systems react to different foods. We, Aspies, are complicated, complex, and sometimes conflicted people, but the support of others makes all the difference and does not ever go unnoticed, even if unmentioned!

So, thank you Sarah-Jill Rush!