Getting to the Top of the Mountain

This year we went to Chattanooga for our vacation.  I experienced a pretty massive panic attack at a cave on the first day.  You can read about it here. We left the cave and drove 4 hours to our hotel in Chattanooga.  We arrived at 11 p.m.  Brett went inside to check in.  15 minutes passed.  What in the world is taking so long?  He came out and said the hotel had canceled our reservations.  Really?  They had one room left if we wanted it.  Brett didn’t have a good feeling about the place.  But he took the room because it was late and he had 5 exhausted females he was trying to keep happy.  Bless his heart.

The room was awful.  I’ve always said I can stay anywhere for one night.  But this was pushing it. TripAdvisor had steered us wrong on this place.  I went down to the front desk and made one simple request.  My request was denied.  I was mad and the lady at the front desk knew I was mad. TripAdvisor will be getting a negative review from me about this place.  You can count on that.  We were supposed to stay for 2 nights.  There was no way I was staying 2 nights. I grabbed my iPad and I started searching for another hotel.  I found one just up the road that had rooms available. Brett called and made a reservation for the next night.  It can’t be worse than this place.  I was still awake at 2 a.m.

The next day we went to the Tennessee Aquarium.  Mikayla and Hope love animals so we knew it would be a fun place to take them.  As soon as we entered the building Brett noticed the sign beside the escalator.  You can’t use the escalator if you’re wearing crocs.  Great.  The girls have their crocs on since I accidentally brought 2 right tennis shoes for Hope.   We took them to the restroom and then we got on the elevator and headed to the 4th floor.

The girls were excited when they got to pet the stingrays.  We stayed for a long time since Mikayla and Hope were enjoying it so much.  Then we went to the 3rd floor.  We’d only been there for a few minutes when one of the girls yelled that she needed the bathroom.  We couldn’t find a restroom anywhere.  Brett asked an employee and she said there weren’t any restrooms on the 3rd floor.  We’d have to go to the 2nd or 4th floor. Back to the elevator we go.  Our girls go to the bathroom frequently.  When they’re in an unfamiliar place they get anxious and they go even more frequently.  It makes traveling a lot of fun.  At one point I had a little sweetheart crying on the 3rd floor and saying she was going to wet her pants.  I grabbed her and her croc covered feet and we jumped on the escalator.  There was no time for the elevator.  I’m normally a rule follower but during a bathroom emergency all rules can fly out the window.

We enjoyed the aquarium but we spent entirely too much time in the restroom.  Mikayla and Hope eventually started fighting with each other and it became very stressful.  Clearly it was time to leave.  We went to the gift shop so the girls could buy a souvenir.  It was taking forever for Mikayla and Hope to pick something out so Taylor and I decided to walk up the street and look at another gift shop.  When we were done I called Brett to tell him that we would meet him at the van.  He told me he was at the check out and the credit card was denied.  What?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  He asked me to bring some cash in so he could pay.  I paid the cashier while Brett was on the phone with the credit card company.  Then we went to the van.

The man from the credit card company told Brett that our credit card was deactivated because of a fraud attempt.  Brett was on hold forever while the man checked into why it was deactivated.  The more minutes that passed the more frustrated I became.   We’re not going to be able to pay for our hotel if our credit card is deactivated.  I totally flipped out and I told Brett we just needed to go home.  He agreed that we might have to.  Finally the man from the credit card company came back on the line.  The hotel from the night before had charged us 3 times for our room.  Now why doesn’t that surprise me?  They reactivated our card.  The man told Brett he needed to go back to the hotel and get it straightened out.  He said to call him back if they wouldn’t cooperate and he would take care of it for us.

Brett dropped us off at our new hotel.  I was scared to open the door.  What if this place is as bad as the last place?  We opened the door and I was relieved to find out that the place was very nice and super clean. Hallelujah! Maybe I’ll get some sleep tonight.  Brett went and talked to the first hotel and they said it would be straightened out by morning.  I certainly hope so.  We were exhausted and didn’t feel like going out for supper.  Brett and Taylor ran and got milkshakes.  Yes.  I fed my kids milkshakes for supper.  And they liked it.  I collapsed into bed.   This was definitely not how I had pictured vacation.  I hope our trip tomorrow to Lookout Mountain will be relaxing and fun.

As soon as Brett opened his eyes the next morning he called the credit card company.  They told him the hotel had credited back the 2 charges that we didn’t owe.  Phew!  Glad that’s off our minds.  We ate breakfast and headed to Lookout Mountain.  It felt relaxing as we walked the trails.   It was a very hot day but Mikayla and Hope didn’t seem to mind the heat.

The view from the top of Lookout Mountain was amazing.  It was definitely the highlight of our vacation. We could see 7 states from the top of the mountain.  We could hear a waterfall.  There was relaxing music playing.  Mikayla and Hope were happy because they got to hug Rocky the Gnome. What more could we ask for?

We left the top of the mountain and continued our way along the trails.  I was feeling totally relaxed and happy.  It finally felt like we were on vacation. And then it happened.

We arrived at Fat Man Squeeze.  You’ve got to be kidding me!  I didn’t want to see another Fat Man’s anything on this trip.  First it was Fat Man’s Misery at Mammoth Cave.  And now this?  Good grief.  Can’t a claustrophobic woman catch a break while she’s on vacation?  They really need to warn people about these things before they buy a ticket.  I took a deep breath and away I went into Fat Man Squeeze.

Ok.  That wasn’t bad.  Fat Man Squeeze was a breeze compared to Fat Man’s Misery.   I didn’t sweat my clothes through and my heart never started racing.  I’d been to the top of the mountain and I’d conquered Fat Man Squeeze.  This 3rd day of vacation was pretty amazing.

We finished our tour and we all agreed we would love to visit again.  We drove back down the mountain and started looking for a place to eat lunch. And then suddenly one of our sweethearts got that look in her eye.  And I knew what was about to happen.  I grabbed the bucket and got it under her chin right before the vomit started flying out of her.  I might be the gal who packs 2 right shoes for her kid.  But I didn’t forget the puke buckets.

Something didn’t feel quite right.  Looks like my little sweetheart’s aim was a little off.  I could feel the vomit running down my hand and collecting under my wedding ring.  Ugh.  I suddenly was no longer hungry for lunch.  We pulled into the Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que restaurant parking lot, deposited our mountain sickness into a trash can, and then walked into the restaurant.  I convinced my stomach that it needed to let me eat something.  It was going to be a long ride home if I didn’t.  The food was amazing.  TripAdvisor had got this one right.  We finished our meals and started our trip home.

The trip home was uneventful until we were an hour from home.  And then the sweethearts started freaking out.   They were exhausted.  She knocked her french fries on the floor.  And then she knocked her hamburger on the floor.  And then there was a whole lot of screaming.  Are we ever going to get home? There’s no place like home.  There’s no place like home.  I never want to go on vacation again.

I crawled into bed and I felt angry.  That was not the vacation that I’d hoped for.  I’d experienced the worst panic attack of my life.  Our hotel reservations had been cancelled.  Our credit card was deactivated.  And the minor issues of mismatched shoes, frequent restroom visits, elevators instead of escalators, and vomit weren’t fun either.  Overall our vacation was just really disappointing.  In my frustration I asked God “What was that vacation all about, anyway?  Why did all of those things happen? Why couldn’t our vacation be relaxing?”

He answered my prayer immediately.  He said If you’d given up and went home you wouldn’t have made it to the top of the mountain. Wow.  I hadn’t thought of that.  Thank you, God for wrapping up this vacation with a valuable life lesson.  2017 has been an extremely difficult year. We had to make several really tough decisions one right after another.  It’s been exhausting. I’ve had a few disappointments that were difficult to get through.  And I’ve been battling some physical issues in the midst of everything else. Sometimes it’s really hard to get out of bed and face the day. Honestly, there have been days when my family went to church and I stayed in bed feeling sorry for myself.  I’ve felt like giving up at least a million times.  So what does God do to teach me to be an overcomer?  He takes me to the top of a mountain.

This vacation wasn’t about relaxing.  This vacation was about learning to overcome some stuff.  The biggest thing I had to overcome was my this is too hard, let’s just go home attitude.  If my family had listened to me the Chattanooga vacation of 2017 would be remembered as the year that we gave up and went home. But it will be remembered as the year we made it to the top of the mountain.  I was talking to Taylor about our vacation after we got home.  I told her I was sorry it wasn’t the best vacation we’d ever had.  She said “It had its moments of not being easy.  But Lookout Mountain was worth it.”  I want to be like Taylor when I grow up.  The valleys of life make us appreciate the mountaintops more.

Next time I feel like giving up on life I’m pretty sure God will say: Remember Lookout Mountain?  If you’d given up and went home you wouldn’t have made it to the top of the mountain.  Don’t give up now either. This is the valley that you’re in right now.  You have to keep going if you want to get to the top of the mountain.  

Caves, Claustrophobia, and Courage

Chattanooga was our vacation destination this year.  We decided to stop at Mammoth Cave on the way to Chattanooga.  Our oldest daughter loves caves.  I don’t like caves but I love my daughter.  So I was happy to stop at the cave for her.  We parked and changed from our crocs and sandals into our tennis shoes.  I packed a pair of gray tennis shoes for Mikayla and a pair of bright yellow tennis shoes for Hope.  Taylor was helping Hope put her shoes on and discovered I’d made a terrible mistake.  I packed 2 right shoes for Hope.  That’s a twin mom problem I hadn’t anticipated happening on this trip.  Great.  Hope’s going to have to wear her crocs in the cave.  When your child has coordination disorder wearing crocs in a cave doesn’t sound like a good idea.  But we had no choice.  I was irritated because I’d made such a stupid mistake.

We read about the cave tours on the website and we decided to take the Historic tour.  We gathered under the pavilion and the ranger began to describe what the cave tour would be like.  He said we would be going through Fat Man’s Misery.  He looked around and said all of us could physically fit through Fat Man’s Misery.  It’s only in your mind if you can’t get through Fat Man’s Misery.  Fat Man’s Misery?  They didn’t say anything about Fat Man’s Misery on the website!  My husband was standing across the way looking at me.  I mouthed the words “I don’t wanna do this!”  He knew exactly why I didn’t want to do this.

I had a flashback to 1989.  Brett and I were walking some trails at a national forest.  We arrived at a place called Fat Man’s Squeeze.  I was 19 years old and weighed 114 lbs.  Fat Man’s Squeeze should be a breeze.  We started to make our way through Fat Man’s Squeeze and I quickly decided this was not a fun experience.  We were in the middle of a long line that suddenly stopped.  I was trapped in Fat Man’s Squeeze and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  My heart was racing and I was sweating profusely.  I turned around and looked at Brett.  The look of horror on my face signaled to him that something was wrong.   I’d just discovered that I’m claustrophobic.  He grabbed my hand and told me it was going to be ok.  The line finally started moving again. I survived Fat Man’s Squeeze but vowed I would never go through it again.  And I haven’t.

So here we are in 2017 and a nice ranger just told me I will be going through Fat Man’s Misery.  Fat Man’s Misery sounds a lot worse than Fat Man’s Squeeze.  This is not going to be fun.  The ranger continued to explain what we’d be seeing inside of the cave.  But my mind was racing.  Fat Man’s Misery.  Fat Man’s Misery.  I’m gonna have to go through Fat Man’s Misery?  I just really can’t believe this.  Why didn’t they tell me this before I bought a ticket?  Ok.  Pull yourself together.  You don’t want your girls to know you’re a chicken.  You can do this.

I had trouble enjoying the tour because the fear of Fat Man’s Misery was hanging over my head.  An hour into the tour we finally arrived at Fat Man’s Misery.  The line was moving much slower as people began to enter.  I started sweating profusely as I stood in the 52 degree temperature waiting for my turn to squeeze through the misery before me.  At home I’m freezing if the air conditioning is on 75.  Fear can do really weird things to a person.

I had the words to the hymn I Have Decided to Follow Jesus rolling around in my head.  I didn’t think the words “Though none go with me, still I will follow” fit this particular situation.  I was relieved that some were going with me and that I could follow them.  Sometimes it’s just not good to be by yourself.  And this was one of those times.  There was a man in front of me who was twice as big as I am.  If he can make it through this misery I can make it through this misery too.  God, thank you for putting him in front of me.  The words in the hymn also say  “No turning back.  No turning back” Ain’t that the truth.  I wanted more than anything to run the other direction.  I do not want to do this.  There’s no way out of this situation except through.  No turning back.  No turning back.  Help me Jesus.

With my heart racing and sweat dripping down my back I entered Fat Man’s Misery.  I grabbed Hope’s hand and my uncoordinated sweetheart wearing her crocs instead of her tennis shoes led me through.  We had to squeeze through tight places while also making sure we didn’t bump our heads.  There was one place that we had to climb up.  It was horrible.  Absolutely horrible.  Hope was my guide.  She was fearless.  She never let go of my hand.  We made it through Fat Man’s Misery.  The best part of the cave tour was the moment that I stepped from the 52 degree temperature back out into the 100 degree temperature.  I’ve never been so excited to see sunlight in my life.

As we walked back to the visitor’s center I made a decision.  I’ll never go back in a cave.  Ever.  If my family wants to visit a cave in the future I will sit in the visitor’s center and read a book.  I wish this cave story had a better ending.  I wish I could say that I was courageous and that I overcame my fear.  But I didn’t.  I went through Fat Man’s Misery simply because I had no other choice.  Sometimes life’s like that.  We get up and keep going because we simply have no other choice.  We often have to squeeze through some pretty tight places.  Places where we don’t want to be.  It isn’t always comfortable or fun.  But the good news is that we don’t have to do it alone.  I had a cute 12-year-old who reached out her hand and she took my hand. She helped me through the darkness.  I’m glad the darkness didn’t last forever.  At the end of the darkness there was light.  Glorious light that filled me with joy.  I could finally breathe again.  And it felt good.

Riding Bikes, Dreaming Bigger, and Changing the World

Last month I wrote a blog post about Mikayla and Hope riding their adaptive bikes to raise money for a special needs school in Kenya.  I’m so proud of our girls.  They often begged to ride their bikes.   They pedaled for hours and hours to help kids across the world that they will never meet. They never complained when they were tired and I told them to keep riding.  Just keep pedaling.  Just keep pedaling. And they would keep pedaling with a smile on their faces even when they were exhausted.

I had a certain amount in mind that I was hoping the girls would be able to raise for the Daisy School.  I announced the fundraiser on Facebook on April 29th.  At church the very next day people started giving me money to support the girls and their fundraiser.   I went home and I realized that I needed to dream bigger because it was only the first day of the fundraiser and we were already half way to the goal I had set.

As I was sitting in church on Mother’s Day I felt very strongly in my heart that I was supposed to believe that the girls would raise $1,000.  Believe for $1,000? Gulp.  That sounds impossible.  As I was leaving church I ran into a friend and  I told her that I felt like I was supposed to believe for $1000 for the kids in Kenya.  She said she would love to partner with me in prayer for $1000 for the Daisy School.

Something always happens when you decide to believe for something.  Discouragement.  It always has a way of trying to come in and take away your faith.  The week after I started believing for $1000 the donations stopped.  And I began to listen to the voice in my head that kept saying “It was crazy for me to believe for $1000.  We’ll never get there.  No way.  It’s not gonna happen.”

We went through a dry spell but eventually the donations started coming in again.  We were 10 days away from the end of the fundraiser and the girls had raised $750.  We’re $250 away from our goal.  Is this really going to happen?  I would go out to the mailbox and find a check.  The doorbell would ring and when I answered the door someone would hand me money. Yes, it’s really going to happen.  Mikayla and Hope are going to raise $1000.  Just a few days before the fundraiser was to end a car pulled up in our driveway.  3 donations came in from 3 ladies and we had suddenly reached our goal. Actually, we had not only reached our goal but we had exceeded it.  Above and beyond what we were hoping for.  That’s how God works.  He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above what we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).  But God still wasn’t done yet.  More donations came in and we ended the fundraiser with $1,200.

I believe that God had a lot of things in mind when He put the idea in my heart to have a fundraiser for the Daisy School.  Obviously, He wanted the Daisy School to receive funds to help their school prosper.   I believe He wanted to show the world what a generous group of people can do to help kids across the world.  He taught me that I need to dream bigger dreams.  As I watched my girls pedal day after day He taught me what perseverance looks like.  Perhaps the best thing this experience did for my mom heart was to see what my girls can do.  They can change another child’s life by pedaling their bikes.  As a special needs mom I daily face the things that my girls can’t do.  Sometimes it’s really hard to accept why so many things are hard for them.   I’ve found myself crying in the middle of the night more than once lately.  They weren’t tears of sadness but rather tears of joy.  Joy that my girls have found something that they’re good at.  Joy that God showed us a way to use what they’re good at to help other kids who have special needs. Joy that God can do amazing things through our girls even though they don’t fully understand why they’ve been riding their bicycles so much.

The team from our church has arrived in Kenya.  They will be visiting the Daisy School and they will personally deliver the money that the girls raised. And I’m anxiously sitting here in America waiting for my friend Mona to post pictures on Facebook of the kids at the Daisy School.  It’s amazing what God can do with two little girls, a couple of bikes, and a lot of generous people.

One day as Hope was riding her bike she took a corner too fast and her bike flipped over.  Her feet were strapped to the pedals and she was wearing a seat belt.  She lay there helpless waiting for me to come and unfasten her so she could stand up.  I smiled as I unfastened her feet from the pedals. This helpless little girl of mine who’s all tangled up in her bicycle is changing the world.  This little girl who goes too fast,  falls down, and gets back up again is changing the world.  And her twin sister who doesn’t ride as fast or fall as much is also changing the world.  All of us can change the world.   My friend changed the world by praying for Mikayla and Hope to reach their goal of $1000.  Many people changed the world when they gave money towards the Daisy School fundraiser.  Some people change the world by being a missionary in Kenya.  And sometimes little girls who have special needs change the world by simply riding their bicycles and sending $1,200 to Kenya.

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 emotion.  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 will 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 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.

Learning to Dance in the Rain

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Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain.  I stumbled across this saying a couple of years ago.  I’ve thought about it often when life’s challenges have me frustrated.   Will I ever learn to take my eyes off the storm? Is it really possible to learn to enjoy life when I’m in the middle of a storm?  A few months ago I bought a wall hanging with the saying on it.   It reminds that I need to enjoy life even in the midst of the challenges.  Even when it’s hard.  Even when things never seem to change.  Even when my heart wants it but my mind thinks it’s impossible.  I need to learn how to dance in the rain.

As I was sitting on the couch admiring my new piece of artwork I was reminded of a day from my childhood.  I was outside playing with my sisters.  It started raining and we ran to the shelter of the block barn that’s across from the house. Once we were safely under the shelter it started pouring. The rain was running down the metal roof and showering down upon the ground.  It was calling us to play in it.  So we did.  We laughed.  We danced.  We were having the time of our lives. And then it happened.

Mom came around the side of the house and yelled at us to come inside.  Really?  What’s the big deal about dancing in the rain?  We’re not fighting. We’re having fun.  We’re not pulling each others hair or scratching each other.   We’re actually being good.  And you want us to go in the house?  I just don’t get it.  Years later I brought up my memory of that day to my mom.  I told her I’d never understood why she ruined our fun that day. She filled me in on the detail that my childish mind failed to remember about that day.

Mom looked out the kitchen window and she saw her three little sweethearts dancing in the rain.  I’m sure she thought we were pretty cute.  But she came outside and ruined our fun because she could see something that we couldn’t see.  There was lightning behind the barn.  She made us come in the house because it was her job to keep us safe.  Dance in the rain unless Momma tells you not to.   Momma knows best.

It’s easy to dance in the rain when we’re a kid. We don’t have anything to worry about.  We don’t worry about the mud splashing up on our clothes. We don’t worry about the lightning.  We just dance because it’s fun.  But then we grow up.  We have bills to pay, food to cook, dishes to wash, and muddy clothes to spray and wash.  Life becomes complicated and downright hard.  If only this would happen then I could enjoy life. Or if only this hadn’t happened then I could enjoy life.

If I could only lose weight.  Then I would be happy.   

I am so sick of washing dishes.  Carol Brady was one lucky woman.  I wish I had an Alice around here to cook and clean for me. Then I wouldn’t have all this work to do.

I’ll enjoy life when my kids start acting right.

It would be easy to enjoy life if I didn’t have to deal with anxiety every day.  

I wish my house looked like her house.

I wish I had her life.  Must be nice.

I finally finished filling out the 65 pages of medical forms so that our girls can see a developmental pediatrician.  Parents of kids with special needs have so many more things to worry about (sigh).  Now I have a headache and I need to eat a bag of chocolate.

Why do our girls have to have sensory processing disorder?  The battle with the socks every morning is frustrating.  I wish they didn’t have to deal with so much stuff.   

I spend so much time every day answering the same questions over and over again.  It’s totally exhausting.

Life would be so much better if someone in this house could hear me when I’m talking to them.  (Then my husband says “Huh? What did you say?”And I roll my eyes and laugh because he’s just so stinking funny.)

I think all of us have times when we wish our life could be different.  But what if it’s never different?  Then what?  Do we just feel miserable and never enjoy our life?  I’m guilty of wanting my storms to just go away.  If it would quit raining then I could enjoy my life.  But what happens if it doesn’t rain? Things can’t grow without rain.  Like the dogwood trees that I love seeing bloom in the spring.  They wouldn’t grow if it never rained. The same is true for my life.  I won’t grow if my life is always easy and I never experience any rain or storms.  We grow during the storms.  We develop character during the storms.  We learn to never give up in the middle of a storm.   And our storms teach us to have compassion for people who are in the middle of their storm.

We had family over a few weeks ago to celebrate Mikayla and Hope’s 12th Birthday.  I was sitting in the living room with a few of our guests and the front door flew open.  Mikayla yelled “Mommy, Mommy.  Come outside.  It’s raining!!!!!”  We all laughed.  She was so excited.  You would’ve thought it was the first time she’d ever seen rain.  If you know Mikayla then you realize this was so much more than just a cute moment.  When Mikayla was little she was scared to death of rain.  If it started raining she would start crying and she wouldn’t let me out of her sight.  She would often go to sleep to escape the rain.  She did this for years.  But then all of a sudden in 2017 the front door flies open and my girl is now excited about rain. That storm in her life has passed.  And I’m thankful.

I jumped off the couch and I ran out the front door so fast that I forgot to put on my shoes.  Brett and the kids were flying a kite in the rain.  I stood barefoot on the front porch and I watched the kite for a few minutes.  Then I went back in the house to visit more with our family.  After everyone left I realized the mistake I’d made.  Why did I just stand on the porch and watch?  Why didn’t I grab some shoes and get out in the rain with my girls?  Am I ever going to learn to dance in the rain?  I missed that moment.  But hopefully I won’t miss the next one.

A few days ago I was tired and frustrated.  I was complaining about something and wishing that it would change.  My husband said “You just need to learn to dance in the rain.”  Well aren’t you cute.  I told him he was right.  Yes, I need to learn to dance in the rain.  I’m definitely a work in progress

A Stiff Neck and a Good Laugh

As I pulled up to the school to pick the girls up I immediately noticed that Hope’s neck was crooked.  What in the world happened?  She was fine when I put her on the school bus this morning.  At 8:40 she was in the nurse’s office with a compress on her neck.  She told them that mommy knew about her stiff neck.  And she was laughing about her head being crooked so they didn’t call me.  She told me her elbow hurt before she got on the bus. Elbow.  Neck.  Pretty much the same thing.

I could tell she was in a lot of pain.  She cringed as I helped her change her shirt.  I told Brett that I knew what it was but I couldn’t fix it.  He asked me what it was.  I told him that it’s called acute torticollis.  He seemed rather impressed with my knowledge and that I had just diagnosed our child.  Hey, I worked for a chiropractor 20 years ago.  I still remember stuff.

I called the chiropractor and made an appointment.  Brett took Hope to the appointment and I stayed home with Mikayla.  When he got home he said “You were right.  The doctor said it’s whatever that word was that you said it was.”  The doctor had massaged and stretched the muscles in her neck and she had handled it very well.  Her neck was still crooked.  It was going to take some time for her to return to normal.

That evening I went to my parent-teacher conference at Mikayla and Hope’s school.  As soon as I sat down their teacher asked me how Hope was.  I told her that Brett had taken her to the chiropractor but she was still about the same.  She said that the girls aide had put her hand on Hope’s shoulder when she was helping her with her work.  Hope looked up at her and said “Do it again and I’ll hit you!”  I laughed myself silly over that story.  And the aide and teacher had a good laugh over it too.

Now obviously I don’t want my girls hitting their aide.  But that isn’t really the point of this story.  There are a couple of huge successes wrapped up in Hope’s sentence.  First, she did an excellent job communicating her feelings.  I’ve spent years wondering what she was thinking and feeling.  At this exact moment in time there was no question what she was thinking or feeling.  She was feeling pain and she didn’t want to be touched. She clearly told those around her that they needed to not touch her.  The second success is that she showed self-control.  She didn’t swat the aide’s hand to let her know that she needed to not touch her.  She chose to use words and she kept her hands to herself.  This is great progress.  Now we just need to work on using nicer words.  “Please don’t touch me.  It hurts.” is more polite than “Do it again and I’ll hit you!”  It’s not as funny but it is polite.

Each little step of progress is important.  Each little step takes time.  Sometimes the little steps make us cry.  And sometimes they make us laugh.  I’m thankful for those moments of laughter.  I’m thankful for people who choose to laugh with me.  And I’m thankful for little girls who teach me that those seemingly small moments in life are actually big moments.