Category Archives: Family

Gallery

Stuffed Animal Imaginary Friends

This gallery contains 6 photos.

In my book, The Right Side of Normal, I talk about imaginary friends being a representation of a right-brained child’s highly developed imagination. I also talk about the idea that right-brained children can view stuffed animals and toys as “real” … Continue reading

Gallery

Dressing Up Medieval-Style

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Admittedly, I’m not a dress-up kind of person. I’m not a decoration kind of person. Hmmm. Left-brained/right-brained stuff again? That kind of creativity just isn’t my thing at all. I’m very, very left-brained. I don’t do Halloween decorations or outdoor … Continue reading

When Least Expected

So, I’m trying to blog more and a few fun little unexpected things happened today when I least expected it that I thought would be fun to share.

Earlier in the day at co-op:  Joseph’s and William’s friend Sam was given a choice by his mother halfway through co-op to either stop and go to another park day that he enjoys or stay and play with William and Joseph at co-op.  He thought about it for a minute and said, “They’re rough (pointing at William and Joseph).  The ones at park day are (and he extended his hand and gestured so-so to mean “a bit soft”).”  Then he indicated with a “duh” face at his mother that it was a no-brainer decision; he’s staying to play with William and Joseph.   I had to laugh out loud at this because how many of us would consider it a bad thing to have “rough boys?”  First of all, they are, and when they are with other “rough boys,” they don’t seem all that rough because it works.  If they are with the so-so soft boys, then they look more rough than one would be comfortable.  It’s all about the fit!

Later in the evening, William and Joseph are playing their fishing video game.  As has been the case more often these days, they were playing cooperatively and kindly.  William came up to me as I was reading other blogs and showed me one of the new lures Joseph had recently bought and declared, “Look what Joe gave me!”  I immediately asked Joe, “Why’d you give William one of your new lures?”  Joe’s simple reply, “I just want to be a nice brother, mom.  Isn’t it good when we’re nice to each other?”  To defend myself, I have seen periodically these nice gestures one moment, in their heat of cooperation, just to be rescinded during a more common time of contention.  But guess what?  I have to keep allowing them the opportunity for their generosity to one another to stick 🙂

 

The Television Question

In unschooling circles, the television and video game question will come up consistently.  Many unschoolers, especially radical unschoolers, talk about the idea of giving unlimited access to these types of things in order to prevent the “forbidden fruit” temptation from occurring.  This means that the more you forbid something, the more it is desired.  So, the idea is if you give a child unlimited access, he/she will saturate his/her need or desire for it and achieve balance.

I have a different perspective.  It’s not that I don’t think the above scenario works.  It might.  I just think differently and my perspective has seemed to work as well.  Since this television question is so prevalent in unschooling circles, I thought I might try to create a post about how it has worked in my house.

My older children don’t watch a lot of television now as either teens or adults.  I know each of them had their seasons of watching a lot of television when they were young.  Most of my older children enjoyed movies on VHS or DVD when they were growing up more than live television, though.  I remember a season of guilt for myself when I was horribly sick during a pregnancy and my then almost 2-year-old watched a bunch of television in order that I could survive it.  In fact, I think that happened on several occasions during pregnancies of various children for those in the home.  I released the guilt!  I don’t remember any of my older (birth) children having a problem with television viewing and balance when they were younger.  On the other hand, as a whole, I didn’t have a “free reign” policy, but I didn’t have a “dictator” policy, either.  I observed their choices, I gave them information, and if at any time I felt there was too much going on, or an out-of-balance situation happening, I would let them know I wanted the television turned off for that time.  It tended to be a decision for the day versus a continuous need.

My youngest two children are adopted.  My older adopted son, William, is much like my birth children.  He has a natural balance with television.  In fact, he rarely finishes watching a show before he is out creating his own reenactment of whatever he was viewing.  I have seen television and movie viewing for this son as a great resource as I described in this post.

My seventh child, Joseph, has finally given me the opportunity to make a mindful choice on my position on the television question.  He is my first child that seems to overuse television.  He is also my only child I have had who would be classified as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) if I believed in diagnosing such a thing.  He definitely has a high energy level.  He is also an extravert (another of my only traits!).  Put those two things together and you often have a child that likes to get up and in people’s faces to meet his needs.  In my experience with many high needs children, the ages up to 11-13 years old is a time of helping my children learn skills and strategies to manage their high needs.  In other words, before that, it doesn’t always look pretty around here as they figure it out:  anger, impulsivity, frustration, picking, meltdowns, explosions, aggression, disrespect . . . it’s all there being figured out.  How do I conduct myself in order to achieve positive relationships?  That’s a huge part of my job during the 2-10 year stages.

For the first time, I noticed that television could be used to give myself a break from a high needs child.  I’m pretty sure ADHD type of children often are quite calm during television viewing.  Joseph was no different.  Again, another opportunity for guilt . . . nah!  When he was younger and his most intense, television was something he chose consistently and I had no problem with that.  There still seemed to be some level of balance all in all.  However, I noticed as Joseph got a bit older, and at the same time, more competent in his behaviors and relationships, his television viewing increased.  All of a sudden, my observation showed that he was using television as a convenient babysitter.  As an extravert, Joseph liked being with people ALL the time.  In fact, I find that playing alone is not something he does very well.  So, the interaction of the television filled that role.  But, I noticed he would turn it on and just go from one show to the next, sitting like that for hours on end, days on end, weeks on end.

Although I noticed in myself a little bit of a desire to take the easy route and let the television viewing continue, I knew it was time for Joseph and I to release the need for television to serve the function it did.  Because the fact of the matter was, evidence through observation showed that the productive function had lived its course.  Joseph was more capable of interacting with people respectfully and  I needed to be in a space to encourage more of it and support his next emotional and behavioral growth.  Plus, for some reason, probably my age and stage as well, I just couldn’t stand the “noise” from the television.  So, I instituted a “no television until 6:00 p.m.” space.  I say space because rule really wasn’t what it was about.  I told Joseph that “I notice that you sit in front of the television and don’t move for hours.  I think you need to find other things in your life.”  So, according to unschooling think, I had just created the “forbidden fruit.”  I never had to do this before.  I was curious myself what was about to unfold!

It’s been 3-4 months since this began.  If I recall, I remember Joseph habitually going to the television.  I would remind him of the new plan.  Really, I think the most difficult thing for him was to figure out how to balance his extravert needs with the idea that not everyone will be available to him.  Yet, William did usually want to be part of some play scenario, and now that they could do so much more effectively with both of their better emotional and behavioral skills in place, they were really starting to enjoy each other.  And trust each other.  At this time, Joseph doesn’t ask to watch a movie from time to time often (I separated that somewhat out from the television viewing aspect).  He’s even having times of playing by himself successfully.  He is engaging more often on his own initiation on focused learning.  He even wanted to learn to play the violin and speak Spanish.

What I don’t see is him “sneaking” television in.  Or feeling denied.  Or going to friends’ houses to get his fix.  I see it opening the space up for him to explore lots of other things that he wasn’t choosing to do because it was easier to sit in front of the television.  I am not against television.  I find it a highly useful resource.  I don’t across the board make sweeping judgments or decisions or declarations about it for every person in the family.  I use my power of observation, my attunement to the needs of each of my children, and assess the function this particular tool is being used for and come up with individualized plans to support each child on their journey of growth and learning.  I think when that happens, good things result.  It did in this instance.

When Love is Blessed

I don’t believe in coincidences.  If I notice what others consider coincidence, I recognize it as the hand of a loving Heavenly Father pouring out His blessings.  I  haven’t blogged since mid-April because my daughter, Abbey, returned from her year at college on April 22.  She is my only daughter and I adore her and our relationship, so I was reconnecting with her in person.  However, within a few weeks of her return, a love interest captured her attention, and thus I have been enjoying watching her journey unfold.

Ben and Abbey at his place

So, here are the evidences that Heavenly Father is blessing Ben and Abbey’s love:

The timing is perfect.  Abbey did not have much if any dating experience before going out to college.  She attended two semesters and a term and was able to date frequently, including a couple young men from whom she was able to learn a lot.  In the end, she had figured out what she was looking for in a relationship.

Ben converted to the church 2.5 years ago and has been searching for a love that is meaningful, fulfilling, and with eternal depth.  He switched housing last September which meant that he needed to attend the ward (building) that our family is in.  Initially, he thought about requesting staying where his friends and support were, but his bishop counseled him to go where he was meant to go, so he did.  Though he didn’t really make any friends, he came every week and faithfully served in his calling (assignment) to teach a Sunday School class.  His obedience and patience paid off when he met Abbey.

They both felt a strong initial attraction, physically and spiritually, when they first saw each other that first week.  Smitten at first sight really does exist!

Ben signed up to join the military a year or so ago, but a long story short, paperwork wasn’t completed to sign off on a particular situation, and basically he was not able to continue with it.  In fact, he is still working through completing the process of being discharged without incident because the fault was in the hands of the military administration.  So, if that had occurred, he would be stationed who knows where.

I had become really disenchanted this past winter, realizing now that I may be affected from time to time with seasonal changes.  It was a much colder winter here in North Carolina last winter, and it was wearing on me emotionally.  My hubby and I were very close to requesting a transfer ourselves into another church ward in order to “start over”.  Upon much prayer and consideration, we felt we needed to stay where we were.  Thus, Abbey and Ben were able to meet.

As another timing element, Ben’s commitment to his conversion of the gospel of 2.5 years through action has proven to Abbey his strength, his desire to change and grow, and the depth of his character.

As they contemplate marriage together, Abbey will most likely postpone college to work full-time and continue pursuing the writing and publishing of her books again.  It comes at a time when I am looking for full-time workers in my home that she has done before.  Further, there was a glitch over the past year wherein a family member in the home cannot work with her own siblings under 18.  She was grandfathered in for this year, but one of her brothers will become an adult in September, who will also increase in hours/need, and his worker is having a baby, so she can just roll into working with that brother.  Coincidence?  or blessing?

Ben and Abbey

I talked of the physical evidences of blessings received so that they would come together just at the right time in their lives to recognize a perfect match.  But it doesn’t even include the perspectives that line up such as Ben wanting to work with Abbey’s brothers who have autism (he didn’t even bat an eye at their differences, but was rather intrigued), or that he enjoys our family and likes to hang out with us (our bond is important) and they should be able to live near us since he’s a North Carolina boy and the career he’s pursuing is nursing (lots of opportunities nearby), or that he totally supports the idea of homeschooling because he admires so much how Abbey represents her upbringing (he finds her clever and talented), but that Ben also wants to learn and grow alongside Abbey and carve out a path they can create together in a mindful way (which lifelong learning is so important to Abbey as an unschooler and true follower of Christ).

Though Ben’s and Abbey’s journeys start from almost opposite spectrums, they have come together at the right time on that journey with attributes, experiences, and perspectives that blesses one another.  What a blessed love they have!

Of course, Abbey says that his being tall, dark, and handsome, his smelling wonderful, and his being a great kisser doesn’t hurt!

Kissing at the pool

Socks – In Memorium

Our beloved Socks, the patriarch cat and oldest Gaddis pet, died last night at the age of 17 years, having lived in feline happiness from August 22, 1992 until December 9, 2009.  He was older than 4 of my 7 children, and lived with us longer than 3 of my 7 children.  He was our first official pet.  He was the only cat we actually bought, from a lady who discovered she was allergic to him.  He was 1.5 years old and we brought him home in March, 1992.  We were living in our first home in Gibsonia, PA:

I have a couple fond memories of Socks in our first home (from February, 1994-April, 1995).  The first was that I had him in Weston and I’s bedroom the first couple weeks as he acclimated to our home with four small children.  He had these little fuzzy balls that his previous owner said he really liked.  Well, one morning I awoke to something dropping on my hand.  When I opened my eyes and looked, it was one of those little fuzzy balls and Socks was staring at me . . . waiting.  Puzzled, I picked it up, pondered, then decided to throw it.  Off Socks shot, so I closed my eyes.  Seconds later, I feel a plop on my hand again, and there sat Socks, staring at me . . . like a dog!  What?!  It wasn’t long before his more human-like personality emerged.  Here is Socks shortly after getting him:

Further, Socks was to be an inside cat.  However, Socks did not like this idea whatsoever.  He had already endured 1.5 years of his life inside, sitting at the windows craving to be outside, and he took every opportunity to try to trick us when we came in or out of the house to try to escape.  In June of 1992, we heard a meow from our front bushes and out came a brown tabby male stray cat.  He began to take the next few weeks trying to get into our house, as Socks tried to get out.  Weeks later, I decided to give up and invited the stray, Bob, inside and released Socks to be free to come and go outside.  That began a beautiful relationship between the older and wiser Bob who would teach Socks how to hunt and be an outdoor cat.  Here they are:

Our family has wonderful memories of sitting on our back deck of this first house at around 6:00-7:00 p.m. and watching the “cat games” between the two cats.  Apparently, Socks was to try to sneak up behind Bob without him noticing.  Whenever Bob would turn and look, Socks would stop stalking and try again later.  One time, Socks was mid-flight towards pouncing on Bob when Bob turned to look, and Socks literally somehow did a flip in the middle of the air and landed beyond him as he had “lost” again.  The good news is that Socks became a good hunter and began his love of the outdoors.

Our first house was short-lived before it was time for our family to transfer to Kentucky.  Naturally, Socks and Bob came with us.  Here is our second home we owned:

We lived here from March, 1995 until May, 1998.  Since it was our first move with a pet, we wanted to be sure to acclimate our cats to the new home before allowing them outside.  However, they were eager to explore their outside environment, so about 2 weeks into it, we let them out.  And they disappeared.  It was days, and they were not the type to leave our yard, so we became concerned.  Now, a week into their disappearance, I began to accept the inevitable.  In fact, Weston saw a dead black and white cat up the road, and we feared it was him, though we could not tell.  I came home to find Abbey in her bedroom, praying, about the cats.  With all faith, she pleaded that Heavenly Father would bring them home.  I remember specifically thinking, “Oh, no, now her faith will be tested,” since I was sure they were gone.  I tried to talk to her, but Abbey matter-of-factly stated, “Oh, Socks and Bob will be coming home.”  As I stayed inside to comtemplate the hardship of it all, I heard her yell to me, “Mom!  Socks and Bob are home!”  And sure enough, as I ran downstairs, there they were.  In the end, it was my faith that was strengthened, from a child’s.  Though we lived near a busy road, our cats seemed smart enough to stay away from it and stick to the surrounding fields as their foray places.  Here are some pictures of Socks in Kentucky.  This is him hiding under Eli’s bed:

And him sitting in Alex’s high chair:

Then it was time to move again . . . to a log house in central PA:

We only lived in this backcountry home for a short six months in the year 1998 (June-December), but it was a time of healing and peace and tranquility . . . for most of us.  Socks, however, must have wondered where we dragged him as one evening, with the windows open as this place had no air conditioning with the natural coolness of the wooded lot and high mountaintop we were living upon, when we heard what appeared to be a cat scream . . . a BIG cat scream.  Stupid us grabbed a flashlight and went out on the porch and shined where we heard the noise.  On one side of a large tree was a cougar, and on the other side of that same tree, with wide-eyes, was Socks!  Apparently they bumped into each other, and when we came, the cougar slowly turned around and walked away.  Socks, however, zipped into the house.

Circumstances created the opportunity for us to move more “in town” to civilization here at the Lindy house:

We were at this house from December, 1998 until May 2000.  Initially, the cats stayed in the basement (we now had Belle and one of her kittens, Sunflash, but Bob had passed away in KY) because we had added a dog, though a few months into this house, we found a new home for him as it wasn’t fitting our lifestyle yet at the time.  However, Socks was one never to be kept up, so he dared to come around the house faster than the others, as well as outside.  Here he is on Abbey’s bed:

And here he is outside:

From here, it was moving to North Carolina into our Trinity home:

We were in this house the longest we had ever lived anywhere:   from June 2000 to December of 2007.  Weston began to do English gardening around the home and this is where Socks became our Ferdinand cat, sleeping under the rose bushes many hours of most days.  Here are the pictures from that home, all with the theme Outside!  Here he is with Sunny:

And near the front of the house:

Socks and I, and Socks and Eric had the closest relationship.  Socks slept in my bed for years at my feet.  Here he is with me on the back deck of this house:

 

He also starred in a movie made by Abbey for Alex found here:

continued here:

and concluded here (stay tuned after the “The End” for a surprise):

Finally, we ended up at our final (hopefully) home here in our log house in central North Carolina:

I was able to get some pictures of Socks sleeping under the bushes in our new house.  He had to wait a bit until Weston transferred some of our roses from the old house to the new one.  It was never quite the same as the old house, but it would do.   He also got really, really old . . . skinny and clumped fur from not grooming, but he was still so strong in spirit that I just couldn’t put him down.

The star quality of Socks continued as patrairch of the cat home and Abbey wrote a book about him in a series of books about all the cats for Alex for Christmas.  Here is his cover:

In highlighting the life of Socks, we also highlighted the travels of the Gaddis family.  He has been with us from the first house we purchased, to our last.  His spirit carried his body farther than it was meant to go, and we celebrate his strength and love he always shared.  Joseph Fielding Smith has said that the spirits of animals will be resurrected.  We believe that so strongly, and having shared the love of Socks, it could not be any other way.  We will see him again!  Until then, may he rest in peace until he can frolick in the gardens of Heaven.

Update in our Household

As a blogger, I find that I go through life after an experience saying, “That would make a good blog post”.  And then it passes me by and I’m sad that I’m not capturing the moments or the perspective on paper.  (As a side note, I’m using my blog as my journal.  Every year or two, depending on how much I wrote during that period, I print everything off into a large binder, putting everything in protective sheets, and labeling the front.)  So, to try to get going again on a consistent basis, I’m going to update everything happening around here in synopsis format, or better yet, in hopeful blog post options, and hopefully I will blog about each individual thereafter over the next couple weeks.

Cindy (that’s me!).  I’ve been continuing to work on my right-brained book.  I carved out time this summer to finish it, but worry it won’t happen.  I also worry that I’m my biggest enemy to completing it.  How do authors do it?!  I’ve been a support person to my oldest son, who seems to suffer from bipolar as we now see it.  At times, this has brought me to the edge of cracking under the pressure of doing all that I’m supposed to do as the center of this family.  We’re currently in a good place.  I am in the middle of organizing this coming year’s family focus for everyone.  My plate definitely runneth over in that category, but it should be an exciting year of growth for many!  So, at least three posts there.

Weston (my hubby).  I’m blessed to have the husband that I do, who learns and grows with our family, and supports me as best he knows how.  We both know in our particular family that we had to divide and conquer.  I take the emotional, educational, and therapeutic roles; and he takes the financial role with key support positions in the home, with particular children for certain areas, as parenting relief for me for high time consumption children, and overall involved father, particularly with community activity involvement the children are in (like coaching soccer and leading the youth group at church, etc.)  He is also the one in charge of beautifying our home front and keeping track of our overall vision for it.  He’s also a great father who shows our boys how to be men of substance, and show our daughter what a husband can be for a woman.  Staying on top of things with his job in this economy takes a lot of stress, and we have had our adjustments in that arena over the past  year.  Also, this is a creative man who has always needed to be challenged intellectually, so he has discovered an excellent match for him to continue some education.  This looks like another three posts!

Eric, Age 22.  We have partnered together to continue to understand his anxious and depressive state from the time he was 16.  Since my last post, I have come to realize he is battling bipolar.  So, that is definitely several posts right there.  Anyone who lives with bipolar can attest to my statement that it is the center of his life right now as he figures out how to effectively manage it.  When he can be plugged into his life that he desires as well as consistently engaged in his creative outlets and life’s passion, I will know we are on the right track.  Baby steps at this point; hopeful progress with our current knowledge.

Abbey, Age 20.  Big changes for Abbey as she has left to live out in Utah at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo starting this summer.  The first weekend of orientation was evidence to her that she would learn and grow tremendously in this new venue she has chosen for her next stage in her life.  She has already had many ups and downs that has provided growth opportunities for her.  It has been fun to discuss how her unschooled life impacts her life at college, both academically and socially.  That should be several posts and more.

Eli, Age 18.  Has this young man ever wowed his mother this past year!  In his “senior year” of homeschooling, he wanted to start attending community college in order to grow more in his passion of math and computers.  He also wanted to face his weak areas and discover what he may still need to do in order to succeed at his life’s plans.  Eli is diagnosed with high functioning autism and could have had many other “learning disabilities” attached, such as ADD (big time), CAPD (big time) (central auditory processing disorder), as well as how his ASD (autism spectrum disorder) affects his ability to speak, read/comprehend, and write English well.  Eli is also a strong right-brained learner, a builder with a specialty in spatial awareness.  Many of you know my passion about the right-brained learner and that there is another legitimate, valid path to how they learn.  It is not uncommon for a right-brained person to not prefer auditory input as well as have a difference in attention factors.  Many also know I have a particular perspective on how these learners should be valued for how and WHEN they approach learning.  I believe in a strengths based foundation and coming to formal academics and learning starting at 11 in order that they can understand the need to build weaknesses as it effects strengths, as well as being able to be truer collaborators at that stage.  Well, Eli has shown how well all of this has worked out for him!  He is truly coming into his own and flourishing.  I have also had an opportunity to work with someone who attended public school who is “ADD” and how that impacts him.  I want to do a whole set of posts sharing Eli’s journey to give hope and insight to all the people who have young people with “learning differences”.

Adam, Age 16.  Adam is now my TALL young man, as he has reached about 6’1″ on his tiptoes.  He lives with moderate to severe autism (moderate because he is partially verbal and can learn to a certain level, and severe because he battles extreme sensory bombardments on a minutely basis and it’s hard not to be consistently agitated and on guard) and he has always toe-walked to some level.  Well, it caught up to me and now we are scheduled for foot surgery this September.  I’m committed to making sure it doesn’t happen again because I expect this recovery to not be easy based on his limited cognition.  However, Adam also had his first emergency room trip this summer after putting his hand through our front window which required 40 stitches.  He was amazingly calm and cooperative, so backward blessing as it was, it gives me hope for his recovery from surgery.  In NC, the compulsory age for school is 7-16, and because Adam will not ever drive, he is no longer legally required to school.  Of course, he enjoys being mentally engaged and loves math and spelling and books, so we do as we want in that arena.  With Abbey going off to college, he has lost his therapeutic tutor from the past 1.5 years and transitioned quite well to Ashley this summer.  I knew this was temporary as she is a school teacher, so Adam will once again transition to someone else soon, probably a man named Russell.  Adam enjoys working with his tutors!  So, there are definitely some posts here on behalf of Adam.

Alex, Age 14.  Alex has really matured this past year.  He has successfully navigated the stage of my Collaborative Learning Process by the same name; the collaborative learning stage.  He is fully independent with his formal academic work, and actually reminds me to get it for him!   He has a system that works for him, and me, and this year I want to start challenging him subject by subject past his comfort zone, but still embracing his learning style.  He also has incorporated daily chores into his life that he, once again, ASKS every day which part of it he should do.  I definitely want to use my recent foray into this stage with Alex to share with readers how this stage looks and what and why I do what I do.  There is often MUCH resistance in this stage, but it has to do with being gently, but firmly, guided into the arena of  self-awareness, self-determination, and a solid work ethic in order to translate toward the ability to set one’s own goals to achieve purpose with one’s passion.  Once they get through this first stage of shifting by collaborating with me in what works for them and what doesn’t, it always amazes me what awaits on the other end of this stage:  the Gift Focus Stage.  And the independence and self-initiation that occurs is phenomenal!

William, Age 10.  I forsee big changes for William this year.  Since turning 10, I saw the beginnings of the 11 year old shift in that, for him, it is more that he may be able to cognitively make strides.  This is another son with many, many labels attached, and would create much worry if I didn’t know better.  We have dabbled here and there, but he is now ready to make some leaps.  I am fortunate to have helped him qualify to receive CAP services here in NC (a Medicaid disability waiver program), so I will be training a therapeutic tutor for him soon.  Up to now, William has been learning where his strengths are, and for most people, looking at someone like him would be hard pressed to feel he has any.  But, if you ask him who he is, he’ll let you know that he is the best pretender there is, he loves to cook and to garden, and he generally wants to learn how to be in control of himself.  In fact, last night, Weston, William and Joseph watched Merlin on recorded TV (William LOVING soldiers and knights and swords and weapons), and my husband actually thought he could then put him to bed.  But, as I know SO well about William, right after watching the show, he was in costume within seconds and prepared to go into his imaginative place.  I corrected my husband as it pertains to this child and William was given space to expend his need to process what he saw through role-playing, and ending with some drawing at the table (which he would be considered to be “dysgraphic”).  I suspect William will be reading in his 11s somewhere, maybe 12.  Same with math.  It’s all good.  It all works out.  William is much more capable of putting in effort and understanding at his stage now, and he has a solid foundation of his strengths, which we will continue to grow and nurture 60% of his time.  Lots of posts with this child pending!

Joseph, Age 8.  He is one of my most naturally social children of all my children.  Interestingly, he also cares deeply about what others think of him, and he is my first child who cares what he is wearing and looking like.  It’s really interesting and fascinating to me.  The YMCA in which we attend holds a summer day camp each year, and William and Joseph both wanted to attend last year (I had them go half of the time), and this year (they went almost the entire summer).  For Joseph, it starts off fairly well, but by mid-way, trouble starts a-brewing.  He is easily offended and hurt by typical child playground tactics as well as typical adult punitive, rule-based consequences and interactions.  When Joseph gets hurt, he gets physical.  We’ve been working on that a lot.  I definitely want to write a post about how the way I parent affects their ability to interact with “schoolish” types of interactions successfully.  It’s tricky when my child wants to be part of this type of thing for a season.  Usually when we hit this point, though, he’s ready to be done.  We both recognize the limitations of his expectations and understandings with the environment and how people behave from those settings.  Joseph is also showing that he is more than ready to tackle reading and math things, so we have already somewhat started, and he should be able to finish the process of starting and going by the end of the year.  At the beginning of this year, I started William and Joseph in group activities, especially because Joseph is so social.  They have done swim team two times a week, karate one time a week, and YMCA sports year round.  Joseph is a natural at most things he does, though being small, he probably should concentrate on areas he could continue to progress in to the level he would probably want to later on.  Karate is a good fit for him, as is soccer.  We think wrestling would be a great fit as well, so we’re working on that.  We still encourage all things, naturally, like swim and even football, which is what he is wanting to do as of late.

Pets.  At current count, we have 8 cats (indoor/outdoor):  Socks/17, Belle/12, Sunflash/11, Xena/9, Ellie, Hanabi, Wally, and Sammy (brothers and sisters)/all 1, two dogs: Spencer/9 and Precious/7.  Abbey lost her tree frog she handraised from an egg from the wild, Tasolen/5; and the boys lost their three rats: SugaBuga, Stripe, and Squeeker/all sisters/3.  We still have our large fish tank, but our pets are diminishing all and all as to variety.

We are still living on our 15 acres in the log house and loving every minute of it.  We finally found a renter who contracted to buy our other house, though it will be a 1-3 year contract period.  But, with this economy, they were good renters to find as they repair all things and take care of the house as if it is theirs, which is what we wanted.  It will still be nice to have it sold.  I guess that could be a post.

Now, I need to commit to posting as indicated in his post.  Lots of good stuff happening!  Oh, I’m going to try to get a new family photo when my daughter comes home at summer break!

Sleeping and Depression

I mentioned in a previous post about my oldest son’s journey with understanding his anxiety and depressive nature.  About a year and a half ago, it escalated into a full blown crisis.  Ever since then, we’ve partnered together as I support him as he tries to understand how to get it under control, first of all, then learn to understand it, and finally how to manage it.  We finally got the “under control” part accomplished just this past December.  Now, we’re at the understand it stage.

One thing we discovered at the same time everything else came together was how his crazy right-brained sleep patterns negatively impact his depression, anxiety, and mood.  A right-brained person tends to be a night owl.  This is because creativity often is heightened in the evening hours, for some reason.  However, when puberty hit for this young man, his traditional night owl sleep patterns didn’t seem to follow his normal predictability.  At the same time, puberty is when we first noticed his mood differences at a larger scale.  Now, I see the correlation.

To describe how my son’s sleep patterns didn’t follow a traditional night owl pattern, I will delineate.  I am a night owl.  I enjoy staying up until about 1:00 a.m. and sleeping in until 9:00 a.m.  Over the last five years or so, my oldest son would stay up until 1:00 a.m. one night, 3:00 a.m. another night, stay up all night yet another, and back to any ole time he felt like.  Waking up was the same.  One day it might be noon, another 3:00 p.m., and yet another he might sleep the entire day away.  That was red flag number one.

Red flag number two was his inability to wake up when he wanted to.  I remember for the year he was 17, he joined a Kendo class that met two days a week.  This is a Japanese sword fighting martial arts, and it was something he had thought of doing for some time.  One class time was in the evening on Wednesday.  That was never a problem.  But, the other was a Saturday morning, at 9:00 a.m., and the class was 1.5 hours away.  As much as he wanted to participate, half the time, he just couldn’t get himself functioning to awaken.  This part of the equation particularly started at 16-17 years old and continued until now, at 22 years old.

The last red flag that got him wondering what was wrong with him was the fact that he was tired all day long.  He might sleep 13-14 hours, and he would yawn all day and feel wiped out.  He suspected sleep apnea, so we had him tested.  Although he did test as mild, and we were able to obtain the machine, he quickly realized it was not impacting how tired he felt all the time.

I had tried to encourage him to create a predictable sleep schedule for his body in order for it to function properly, but he just hadn’t developed a testimony of it yet.  Frankly, I thought it might help a bit, but didn’t think too much about it.  However, when depression and anxiety hit so hard that he had to be hospitalized, it was time to get really serious and do anything and everything I could think of that might impact him positively.

The first thing I did was ask him to trust me for at least a month with his sleep patterns.  That included first moving him up out of the complete blackness of the basement and into a well-lit upstairs bedroom.  Once I committed him, he has really enjoyed it now, and the natural light from the four windows helps his body’s natural “feel good” chemicals emit from exposure to light.  Step Two was to collaborate with him about what time might be best.  We decided 2:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m., but then switched it to midnight until 10:00 a.m.  Sometimes he fluctuates to 2:00 a.m., but shouldn’t go past it.  But, for that month, it was midnight until 10:00 a.m.  Step Three was taking melatonin.  My oldest son always had a harder time falling asleep, but it escalated to 2-4 hours during his depression/anxiety times.

It seemed to help along with everything else we were doing, so we didn’t think a whole lot about it.  That is, until he decided to do what he used to do, and that is take 3-4 days in a row and keep pushing the bedtime and the awake time.  Suddenly, his difficult mood appeared, depression kicked in seriously, and he became very tired again.  It became evident that his sleep patterns effected his body negatively in a serious and immediate way.  What was more important is that he “got it”!

Interestingly, one of the main things he likes to do in the middle of the night is his art.  A right-brained learner is usually engaged in one or more creative outlets in a big way in their lives.  My oldest son’s choice is drawing.  If he is not engaged in his drawing outlet in some way in his life, then he only half lives.  In fact, it was by his renewed interest in drawing, which had been dormant for a year or more, that prompted us to realize he was becoming more healthy.  He decided since he was actually feeling like drawing again, that it was a positive sign, so he could do more of this good thing late into the night.  Not true at all!  What I helped him understand is that even a good thing has to be put in balance with everything else.  In other words, drawing is a positive thing in his life.  But his sleep pattern is an important balance need in his life.  One good thing cannot override the importance of another thing.

So, my son is taking his sleep pattern needs seriously these days.  Sometimes, for one reason or another, he starts to push it.  Midnight is ideal, so finding himself near 2:00 a.m. means he will start to feel the effects.  He is now taking responsibility for the consequences of these choices.  He understands it is not fair to those he lives with, and he certainly cannot complain about being tired or not feeling well emotionally if he chooses to alter his healthy sleep pattern.  He now has full knowledge of its importance in his life.

What a Surprise!

William (9) and Joseph (8) are in YMCA sports pretty much year round:  spring soccer, summer baseball, fall soccer and winter basketball.  My hubby, Weston, coaches year round for their teams.  Because coaching is volunteer, the sports activities person at the YMCA is always grateful for people like Weston.  So, it was a nice surprise when Jamie, the YMCA sports guy, called me up and let me know that Weston was receiving a coaching award for his time with his basketball team in 2008 at the 2008 YMCA award ceremony at the beginning of February.  We were all going to make it a surprise, so I partnered with Jamie to send pictures of Weston and our family, let the children in on the secret, and planned to all come to see his shock.

I should have known.  All the signs were there, but I was so focused in on creating the surprise for Weston, that none of us saw it coming.  Jamie encouraged us to bring our entire family (and when we arrived at the ceremony, Jamie had a table ready for us by an exit).  Yet, no one else had their families, but no, I’m oblivious.  Jamie starts his award portion and begins with the 2008 Strong Family Award.  So, I listen, thinking, that sounds like a nice family.  Then, the BIG cues come:  homeschooling, seven children, what!?  Jamie turned the tables and surprised me, and everyone, as recipients of the 2008 Strong Family Award!  Funny, the first thing I thought about was, “Is Weston still getting a coaching award, or was it all a guise?”  He did.  Here are the awards:

What’s funny, my best friend and her family received this award a few years previous and she had told me all about it.  If I had opened my eyes, I would have noticed.  She told me about her family being the only ones with children; I noticed, but I just didn’t let it register.  Jamie had asked me all sorts of things about each child.  Jamie’s wife, while at the table, mentioned reading my blog, but I just figured they were asking to highlight the family of a coaching award recipient.  Jamie asked me to send four pictures of Weston, and four pictures of the family; again, I figured it was to show his family as well.  My friend had mentioned Jamie approached her at the YMCA for information about the family, and I let it slide.  So, you see, it was all there.  The coaching award was the perfect “cover” for me to be surprised.  Here are the pictures of all the award recipients.  The first picture was Weston, me, Eli, William and Joseph, and the second picture, we managed to convince Adam to join us (Abbey was there as well, but must have been cut from this picture) (Eric and Alex had stayed home . . . not knowing all of this, of course).

What A Surprise!

It’s an honor.

Visiting Abbey’s College Campus

There are so many different aspects I need to blog about as it pertains to Abbey’s path to college.  I may be able to touch on a few in this post.  Abbey has never attended a formal class before, unless you count driver’s education classes at the local high school.  As mentioned in a previous post, Abbey decided suddenly last summer that she wanted to pursue college.  As mentioned in that post, she was late by a few days in the colleges of her choice receiving her ACT scores, so she officially missed the deadline.  She applied to Brigham Young University, Idaho, as her primary choice, and they asked her to reapply because of the missed deadline.  We didn’t pursue what that meant because of what happened to her second choice:  Brigham Young University, Provo (the main campus).  This institution simply qualified her for the next available term or semester, which happened to be Spring Term, and she was accepted!  Provo is fairly competitive, so we weren’t sure she would be accepted.  Plus, Idaho had a great creative writing program, which is what she thought she would pursue.

(The “Y” on the side of the mountain near BYU, Provo.)

However, because of the immediate acceptance into Provo, we decided to look around their site and see what kind of Creative Writing program they offered.  But, we couldn’t find it anywhere.  So, we ended up looking at every category of degree until we found a “writing emphasis” degree under a General Studies category.  Yuck!  But, this process got us thinking.  If she were to pursue a creative writing degree, the type of job she would need to pursue would be something with magazines or newspapers and the such.  But, she wants to write novels, and there really isn’t a job out there except as an entrepreneur, which is the way Abbey wants to pursue it.  Soooo, as we had perused the site, we ran across special education teacher, and it really popped at us.  Abbey has been working officially through an agency with her brothers with special needs for the past year, and she’s a natural at it!  We got to talking, and some of the benefits I pointed out in pursuing this degree as it pertains to getting an actual job are these:  it is not year-round and one gets liberal vacation time (scheduled, though); she wants to homeschool, so a teaching certificate often bypasses certain legalities; she could tutor from home; it is in high demand so if she does it temporarily or needs to move often, she should be able to find employment easily.  Those were the things that came off the top of my head.

Abbey wants to be a stay-at-home mom.  She wants to homeschool her children.  She wants to be an author of novels.  All of these things she knows she can do as an autodidactic.  Pursuing college has a couple of purposes:  she wants to have more of a social life.  Having been a homeschooler all her life, she just was different.  It was hard for her to find teens that wanted to be associated with different.  Abbey was comfortable, but she is really interested in the dating scene.  She started off thinking of unschooling her career path into authorship, but finding peers in her position was hard to come by because so many go off to college.  Sooo, thus, her decision to put herself where everyone is.  Again, she thought of pursuing her unschooled career next to a large university, but she decided against it because of her second reason: the world values degrees, so she felt that it might be useful to have one in case she needed it.  In other words, it gave her options if she needed it beyond her career of choice.  And, special education appears to be a perfect way to enhance her ultimate goals as a stay-at-home, unschooling mother.

Because Abbey was not able to start university for Winter Semester like she had hoped, she had time between November when she found out, and June (we ended up postponing to Summer Term, which made the most sense) when she would start.  I suggested that she take a couple of classes at the local community college in order to have at least one experience with a classroom setting before going into such a competitive schooling environment.  So, she chose Expository Writing, since so much of college is writing, and Spanish I, since it had been a while since her self-taught Spanish learning in her unschooled years, and BYU has a requirement to pass a second year language level.  So far, Abbey has learned to budget studying time, learn study skill habits, and understand the logistics of a classroom setting and the requirements of an instructor.  She is receiving top scores at this time, which she feels good about since she anticipates that BYU will certainly be an increase in difficulty from a community college level.

So, that brings us to our recent trip.  It was spring break for community college, and I decided last minute that Abbey and I should take a trip to BYU, which she had not visited yet.  Airfare rates were good, so we jumped on it.  It was just what she needed to make more informed choices about on-campus housing choices and meal plan options.  Abbey also enjoyed just getting to “feel” the student environment as we walked around the campus amongst the hustle and bustle of the student body.  We started off with a tour of the campus.  We waited in their visitor’s center for our student tour guide:

(Abbey standing in front of an aerial photo of the BYU campus)

Naturally, the student tour guide was a well-spoken young man who drove us around in a zippered protected golf cart (back to a winter state!) and answered any of our questions.  Some of the extra-curricular programs Abbey may be seriously considering once she gets out there is intramural sports and working on the BYU newspaper.

The BYU Bookstore was awesome.  The first thing we saw when we walked in were a table of modest undershirts.  Abbey and I have clocked in hours at the malls trying to find these!  And, here we are, in modest city, with a whole table laid before our eyes in all different colors.  We snatched up several.  Naturally, we also had to buy something to get her in the spirit of her next adventure:

(Isn’t she adorable?!)

My latest repetitive question I get from people are, “I’ll bet you’re really going to miss her, huh?”  These people know how close Abbey and I are and she is absolutely my best friend.  But, it’s funny.  At this time, I don’t feel like I’m going to “miss her”.  I’m totally excited about her next stage and this adventure she has chosen.  As I have contemplated why I don’t feel like I’m going to be crushed with her leaving is this:  I am confident in our relationship we have.  It is strong and solid.  Distance will not threaten it.  We know we will be as close as ever.  She already has me set up for Skype and her Christmas present was a cell phone on our calling plan.  She will share her journey every step of the way as she always has.  I have always enjoyed the privilege of walking alongside my children on their own personal journeys, and it will continue when they leave our home as when they are here.

The strength of our relationship bonds us across the miles.