Pedaling to Change the World

On a Wednesday night last fall my life changed.  I wasn’t planning on going to church that night.  I had a really bad headache so I had decided to stay home.  But then my friend, Mona, posted on facebook that she was speaking during the service.  She mentioned her topic for the evening and it was something that I was struggling with.  So I took some pain medicine, got the girls ready, and we went to church.

Mona started the service by showing slides from her recent mission trip to Kakemega, Kenya.  She had visited a school for kids with special needs that was called the Daisy School.  As I watched each picture flash across the screen something happened to me.  I started crying.  That might not sound like a big deal.  But it was.  At the time I was battling the worst anxiety of my life.  I couldn’t seem to feel anything anymore and I hadn’t been able to cry. Before anxiety invaded my life I cried very easily.  But I couldn’t remember the last time that I’d cried.  As I saw the pictures of the kids from the Daisy School the tears came like a flood.

I was overwhelmed with emotional.  These kids don’t have much of anything.  I began to realize how much my family has.  Yes, two of our girls have special needs.  And it can be really, really hard at times.  But as I looked at these pictures I realized that I don’t even begin to know what hard is.  I was suddenly faced with the realization that my husband and I can give our girls everything that they need.   And one of the reasons we are able to do that may be just simply because we were born in the United States and we are able to raise our family here.  But what if we were in Kenya?  What if we couldn’t take care of our girls?  That’s a kind of hard that my mind can’t even comprehend.

Mona moved on from the Daisy School presentation into the topic she was speaking on for the evening.   I don’t remember what she talked about because I couldn’t stop thinking about the Daisy School.  I went home and I couldn’t stop thinking about the Daisy School.  I’ve never had a desire to go on a mission trip.  And I still don’t have any desire to go on a mission trip.  But as I sat in church on this night in 2016 God dropped a desire in my heart to help the Daisy School.  I didn’t know how we were going to do it but I believed that God would show me.

At the end of April I still didn’t know what we were supposed to do to raise money for the Daisy School.  Mona was planning her trip to Kenya and I asked her when she would be leaving.  She said June 19th.  June 19th!  That’s less than 2 months away.  We’re running out of time!  I googled fundraiser ideas and nothing felt right.  I began to panic because I only had the month of May left to do anything.  And suddenly the answer came.

I woke up on April 26th at 3:00 in the morning with a thought.  Use the bicycles your girls were blessed with to bless others.   I believe it was God speaking to me.  I had racked my brain for months trying to figure out what to do.  But then in the still of the night the answer came.

Last spring a wonderful organization gave Mikayla and Hope adaptive bicycles. Our girls were 11 years old and I’d never seen them ride a bicycle. Along came these amazing people who gave them bikes free of charge.  My dream to see my girls ride a bike was fulfilled.  And it was because someone saw a need and did something about it.  And now I saw a need in Kenya and I needed to do something about it.

On April 29th I posted on Facebook that Mikayla and Hope were having a fundraiser to bless the Daisy School.  For a $5 donation the girls would ride their bikes for 15 minutes.  We made a commitment that they would ride their bikes every day in May.  The very next day at church 4 people approached me and gave me donations.  I began to find checks in my mailbox.  And I realized that God was doing something really special.  And He had chosen my girls to be a part of something really big.

Mikayla has pedaled every single day in May.  Hope missed 2 days because she came down with a stomach virus.  I couldn’t be more proud of my girls. Hope was always exhausted after a day of school and a long bus ride home but she still rode her bike for at least 15 minutes.  She even rode on the night that she had torn her pants and scraped her knee up at school.  Most days Mikayla rode for 30 minutes and sometimes for as much as 45 minutes.  We have 9 more days until the fundraiser is over.  On June 1st I will announce how much money will be going to the Daisy School.  I’m excited about what God has done and what He will do in this final week of our fundraising efforts.

I’m thankful for this opportunity to touch Kenya even though our family can’t physically go there. I’m thankful for people like Mona who have a heart to go to other nations and love others like Jesus loves.  I’m thankful for everyone who has given me a donation and shared in this vision of helping the Daisy School.  And I’m thankful that on that night in 2016 I didn’t let a headache stop me from going to church.  God had a plan for our family and the Daisy School.  I’m humbled to be a part of what He’s doing in Kenya.  And I’m blessed to daily watch our girls pedaling to change the world.

Mommy, You Need to Go in the House

The girls are nearing the end of their first year in public school.  There’s been a lot of trial and error to find what works best for them. But overall I’ve been amazed at how well they’ve done with the transition into school.  They’ve gained a great deal of independence.   The girls carry their own meal trays.  They’ve learned how to maneuver through the building and they can find the restrooms, cafeteria, nurse’s office, and therapy rooms without any help.  They call the speech therapists on the phone and tell them they’re on the way to speech.  I’m thrilled with how much they’ve learned to do in just one school year.

I didn’t think the girls would handle the school bus well because of their sensory issues.  So I’ve spent most of the year driving them to school.  I was just sure the noise of the bus would upset them and make them miserable.  But a couple of months ago we decided to try the bus and see how it went. The special ed. coordinator made arrangements for the girls to have a practice ride on the bus.  They stood on the sidewalk and watched the bus pull up to the school.  They were taught to wait until the bus driver motioned for them to cross.  They showed the girls where their seats would be.  They had their name above the seat so they would be able to easily find it.  They took a bus ride around town and then they were dropped off at the same entrance the bus would pull up to each morning.  I’m so thankful for our school system.  They went above and beyond what I expected.  They took the time to prepare the girls for what was going to happen when they rode the bus.

The girls were all smiles and super excited as we waited at the end of the driveway for the bus to pick them up and take them to school.  I was a little nervous about it.  A practice round on an empty bus is a little different from getting on a bus full of kids and a lot of noise.  The bus pulled up and I reminded the girls to wait for the bus driver to motion for them to cross the street.  They watched her and crossed after she told them to.  They seemed a little hesitant about this new experience.  They walked very slowly as they crossed the street.  They kept turning around to see if I was still there. At the end of the school day the first thing I heard was “The bus was fun.  Want to ride the bus again tomorrow.”  I couldn’t believe it.  I thought they would hate it because of the noise.  What do I know?

The girls are in a self-contained classroom and they share an aide.  They are constantly competing for the aide’s attention.  Hope hates it when Mikayla’s getting the attention.  And Mikayla hates it when Hope’s getting the attention.  I can’t say I blame them.  They have to sit beside each other all day long.  Everywhere Hope goes Mikayla is there. Everywhere Mikayla goes Hope is there.  And they get really tired of it.  When my sisters and I went to school we got off the bus and they went to their classes and I went to mine.  And we didn’t see each other until we got back on the bus.  If my sisters and I would’ve had to sit by each other all day we wouldn’t have been very happy.  It’s a beautiful thing for siblings to go to school and be able to get away from each other.   It didn’t seem fair that Mikayla and Hope didn’t have that option.  As the year has went on Mikayla and Hope’s frustration with each other has escalated.  But what can we do?  There isn’t any way to separate them. They’re the same age and this is the only classroom they can be in.

One of their therapists approached me with an idea.  Would it be possible for one of the girls to come in the morning and the other one to come in the afternoon?  We thought about it and decided to give it a try.  The week after Easter we started the new schedule.  I decided that Mikayla should keep going in the morning because she doesn’t like her routine messed up.  So she rides the bus to school, eats breakfast, and then has her day by herself.  I bring Hope at 11:30, she eats lunch, has her school day by herself, and rides the bus home.  It’s been so good for them.  It’s not easy being a twin.  They feel like they’re always one of two.  But now they get their own individual time at school and it’s made all the difference in the world.

The girls have made some academic progress this year.  But what’s most important is that they gain life skills and independence.  They’re learning to be independent of me.  And they’re also learning to be independent of each other.  Yesterday I walked Mikayla to the end of the driveway to wait for the bus.  She turned around and said “Mommy, you need to go in the house.”  Yes I do.  You need to learn to go out into the world without me and I need to go in the house.  You don’t need me as much as you used to.  And I love it.  But even though I’m in the house please know that I’ll be peeking out the window to make sure that you’re ok.  And that will never change.