It’s getting real…

Yesterday I received a phone call from the agency that owns the group home that we are interested in for Thomas. They wanted to visit him at his school and also have Thomas visit the group home himself to ensure he is a good match. My heart stopped for a minute. Then I realized I’m nervous for him. This will be a big transition. And I have to say this is the first time I’ve been anxious for Thomas to make such a big change. All the other times he’s had to be living in residential we were in crisis mode. Thomas wasn’t safe to be around. Today he’s a different person, the residential school he’s been in has literally been a Godsend; an answer to prayer for him and us. The Lord made it happen for this school to be “the one” for our family.

I’ve written about this before but when we were waiting for Thomas to be admitted to residential 4 years ago, this school was the only one who called me back. I had been calling all the schools on the “list” where his packet was sent by the Board of Ed. and I was discouraged because either no one was calling me back or the ones that did call me back weren’t appropriate for my son. Things were not pleasant here at home, and Thomas was in and out of the psych hospital. Finally one morning after I dropped Samantha at school and went for a walk I came home to the phone ringing. I didn’t want to answer it but forced myself to. It was the school that was to become Thomas’ home for the next 4 years. Turns out they were looking at IQ scores from years ago and they thought Thomas was too high functioning for them. I quickly corrected their error and they were then reviewing the most current evaluations for Thomas. Long story short, Tommy and I visited the school and we loved it. After a couple of bumps in the road Thomas was admitted and we’ve all been happy with Thomas there for the past 4 years. The staff has been wonderful and attentive, his teacher (the same one since day one) has gone out of his way to encourage only the best from my son.

So now the transition begins. I’m still in awe at how the Lord works. He arranged for Thomas to be placed where he is now and His fingerprints are all over this group home placement. I just happened to mention to my bible study co leader that I was being pressured to accept group home placement in other boroughs. Trish then gave me the phone number of the group home agency, I explained to him our situation and the next thing I knew Tommy and I were visiting a group home 10 minutes from our house! When the Lord has a plan there is nothing that will stand in His way. And the way He orchestrates events is nothing short of mind blowing.

So now things are getting real. There are meetings to be had concerning Thomas’ school placement for his last year of being educated by the Board of Ed. I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to enroll and pay for him to attend public school as opposed to residential school. Things won’t happen overnight, but I’m sure I’ll be surprised at how fast and quick time will pass and I’ll pray for Thomas to make a smooth transition and be as resilient as ever when he moves from one residence to another.

She’s 18

My Alyssa, my YaYa (nickname courtesy of Daniella), our Deedle (nickname courtesy of Thomas). Whatever we call her we’re so proud of her. She made it through high school while enrolled in a very difficult honor’s program, the International Baccalaureate Program or simply “IB”. I hardly heard her complain about the work, she is one my children that never made it our business that she had a project or paper due, she just did her work and I see Daniella following in her footsteps.

So Alyssa is legally an adult, legal to get any piercing, tattoo or other body adornment. I won’t stop her if she does decide to do any of the above, I will however give my opinion and any pearls of wisdom from first hand experience, asked for or not. I’m optimistic she will make “good” choices.

I can remember the day she was born like it was yesterday the way we all can reminisce about that day for any of our children. I chose to not have the epidural and looking back I know I didn’t need it. My labor was pretty short and the delivery was very quick. When the midwife announced “It’s a girl!” I was in shock of disbelief. My husband is one of 3 boys so I figured I’d never have a girl.  Alyssa was so pink! And everyone who stopped by to see me exclaimed that she was so pretty. (I used to work at the hospital I gave birth in, I had many visitors of former co-workers). I thought everyone was just being “nice” but when I looked back at photos I knew they were telling the truth.She really was a pretty baby.

So now she’s 18 years old. She’s still has a pink complexion and she’s still pretty. Stunning if you ask me but I’m prejudiced. I see some of my husband in her face and she certainly did not inherit her long, ridiculously thick hair from me. She carries herself with grace and is one to dress pretty modestly. I can’t think of one instance where I made her change her clothes before going out or going to school. Adolescence/tween years were not fun; in fact I even called my mother to apologize for my own behavior at that age. Thankfully that time was short lived and by age 14 or so she was back to being our Yaya. Alyssa loves the Lord and isn’t afraid to openly worship Him. I love when she picks me up from work and she’s listening to Christian music, it makes my heart happy.

I wish for the world to be kind to this new adult, this young woman of mine; well mine for now.

Church

This past Sunday I attended the church my sister belongs to. It’s an Episcopalian church much like the one we grew up in. The building was absolutely gorgeous with beautiful stone and wood structure and the most amazing stained glass windows especially those at the altar. The altar itself was lovely. I really enjoyed the priest, he wasn’t so serious he that he would be unapproachable, yet serious enough that you knew he meant what he said especially during his sermon.

I couldn’t help but compare “my” church to this one. We don’t have a fancy altar nor do we have stained glass windows.  I wouldn’t even say we have a traditional altar per se, it’s more of a stage where the musicians and singers are set up and the Pastor speaks. High on the end wall hangs a simple cross. When I first started attending my church I was taken aback by all the musicians and singers on the “altar”. But I quickly got over it once the music and singing started. We sing contemporary Christian songs with older hymns thrown in here and there such as “That Rugged Cross” and “Amazing Grace” there are more (I am a friend of God) but I’m not so familiar with them to name them so quickly. I love our music worship time. To sing and worship our Lord in language that comes so easily to the tongue…it’s something that is wonderful and heartfelt.

The Episcopalian church has a formality to it. Stand, sing, sit, kneel, stand, sing again, sit, communion, etc…I’m sure there’s a particular order I’m just not used to it anymore. In my church we stand to sing and worship the Lord, we also stand in respect to reading a passage of the bible. It’s usually the passage the Pastor is going to preach on. Then we sit and our Pastor will preach for about 45 minutes to an hour, I’m guesstimating that time frame, I’ve never officially timed our Pastor. I really enjoy listening to and taking notes on our Pastor’s sermon. I like to go back and read what I’ve written and reminisce on the sermon and how it made me feel and how close to the Lord I felt. How much I felt in my heart that the Lord was speaking to me.

It was interesting to go back and attend an Episcopal church after attending my church for the past 8 years. I do prefer my church and our style of worship. To me it seems more heartfelt. I remember I tried to return to the Episcopal church I grew up in. But I left feeling empty, spiritually unfed. And they offered nothing for my children, barely a Sunday school and no youth groups or activities. My church has “kids church” every Sunday that my 9 year old attends and youth groups for middle and high schools. I love it. My older girls attended youth group and grew so much in their walk with the Lord because of those groups and their leaders.

I’m not bashing the Episcopal church I simply can’t help but compare what I have now to other worship styles. Especially after attending service so recently. I realize every church has their own style and customs, some dating back years and years. This post is not to disrespect any church that does things differently than mine does.

 

 

Graduation Today!

My Alyssa is graduating high school today. Today. She’s thisclose to turning 18 years old. I don’t wonder where the time went I was there I know how fast it all flew by. It wasn’t always flying by so fast there were days of excruciating slowness but I don’t remember them in detail so much. Much like labor pains those memories fade.

Alyssa is much like an oldest child rather than 2nd born. She was our first girl and our first typical child. I remember her as an infant (such a pretty baby even as a newborn), then toddler. In Pre-K she was the pretty little girl with long curls who clung to her mother’s leg and cried and cried. Grammar school graduation was sweet, Junior high grad was even sweeter. High school years that went so fast I stand in amazement at the woman she’s become in the past 4 years.

I feel incredibly blessed this morning. Blessed that my God has given me the privilege to raise this baby He gifted me with. I sit here holding back proud tears and remember all the times she’s made me proud, all the times she gave me the honor of being her mother. Even the times she made me want to rip my hair out.  In gifting her to me, God gave me the opportunity to parent a very typical, very beautiful, very unique child.

While raising Thomas I often referred to the poem “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Pearl Kingsly:  (http://www.our-kids.org/archives/Holland.html). There were too many times to mention that I mourned the fact that I didn’t sign up to be a special needs mom. That no, I did NOT want to be in Holland. Alyssa gave me the opportunity to visit “Italy”; the typical world, the world I thought I signed up for when I first became a mother. And for that I can never thank her enough. I don’t even know if she’d understand why I would be thanking her.

So I wish my girl all the best this world has to offer. She loves God and she loves me. What more could I ask for?

Church and a Bible Study

I haven’t been to church in about 4 weeks. And I won’t be able to attend my church this Sunday due to a family obligation. I miss my church. I miss hearing the preaching of the Gospel. It’s funny because years ago I never gave it a second thought that I didn’t go to church. I used to look at people sideways who made church a priority in their lives. Now I am one of “those” people.

I’ve been enjoying the small group I’m co-leading. Although I have to admit the way the bible study book we’ve been using  “Unlocking the Treasure: A Bible Study for Moms Entrusted With Special Needs Children” by Bev Rooseboom, sometimes brings me back to a time in my life with Thomas that wasn’t all that rosy. When I was looked at like there was something wrong with me and not him. Not that I wanted anything wrong with Thomas I just wanted someone to see what I saw and get him and us the help we so desperately needed.  The book also makes me realize just how loved I am by God and how awesome that love is.

The women in the group have truly blessed me with their presence and experiences. We have one woman who attends accompanied by her neighbor. The neighbor is an active member of my church. She doesn’t have a special needs child but her perspective of the Lord and surrendering to Him and trusting Him is something that I thoroughly enjoy.  We are blessed to have her attend the study even though she doesn’t have experience with special needs children, she has valuable experience walking with the Lord and we’re fortunate that she loves to share that part of her life with us and she does so with such joy that it’s infectious. Everyone should have a “Jan” in their life or at least in their bible study group.

Missing church makes me realize how grounded I feel when I’m there. How I’m reminded of what my Savior has done for me and every sinner in the world. How good our God is, how perfect and just He is. How He is a part of every single moment in our lives. And there isn’t anything that happens, “good” or “bad” without His finger prints all over it. I remember when I was going though a bad time depression wise and a woman I consider my Mentor put her hand on my shoulder and said she sees God’s fingerprints all over me. I can’t tell you the comfort that statement gave me.  I wasn’t in control at that time but God was. He was there every step of the way even when I convinced myself he wasn’t. God is so good.

 

 

 

Summer, bathing suits and yearbooks

Yep, it’s that time again…bathing suit season ~~shudder~~. I decided to hit TJ Maxx for their selection and low prices. And believe it or not their dressing rooms were not set up for failure like most major department stores. Last year I went to Macy’s and the lighting in their dressing rooms seemed to emphasize every wrinkle, flaw, cellulite you name it. TJ Maxx on the other hand had bright enough lighting but not the glaring fluorescence that will highlight every flaw you already know you have and don’t need the extra reminder.

I ended up with your basic one piece suit, black and white. Its nice and fit well.  Last year’s dilemma over wearing a bikini is no longer a dilemma due to the lovely weight gain I’ve experienced due to much needed medication. I’m not okay or happy with the weight gain but I’m not letting it rule my life as it had in the past. I’m not going to rock the boat and change medication that is already working well in the hopes that I will lose weight. I’d rather be this weight and mentally healthy than skinny and depressed.

Alyssa came home with her yearbook from high school. It was nice to go through it with her and see all the pictures of her and her friends. It brought the reality of her graduating all the more to the fore front. Today she showed me all the nice and wonderful things her friends wrote. It was sweet to read. Especially when the writer was someone she’d known since grammar school. I wrote to her as well. It was easy to write to her, the words just flowed from my heart to the page. Then…I got choked up. Especially when I wrote how God has blessed me with her and now I must let her go to have even more experiences. I’m so proud of Alyssa. She made me grow as a mother while I watched her grow into this amazing young woman. And I have the privilege of watching my younger 2 daughters grow in the same manner.

I’m still amazed at how fast the past almost 18 years have flown by. It does seem like yesterday that I was this young overwhelmed mother of (then) 2 children. I used to put Thomas and Alyssa in the double bus like stroller and walk the neighborhood with them. We were regulars at the Italian deli a few blocks over. Things were much simpler then but to be honest I wouldn’t go back even if I could. Once around that merry go round was enough. I enjoy my Alyssa these days, don’t get me wrong she can exasperate me like no other and she still leaves her stuff all around the house and she doesn’t empty the dishwasher… but I do enjoy her company. She is thoughtful and sweet and most important she talks to me. I pray for her future and that she will enjoy the brightness of it.

 

 

 

 

Graduation and other movings on

So my Alyssa will be graduating high school next week. Incredible… because as most parents we still remember her when she was a much younger child and the silly, funny things she would do. I’m amazed at how fast time flies by and even more amazed at how not so fast the minutes and hours and days go when waiting for things to happen. Like waiting on the IRS to send us information pertinent to Alyssa receiving her financial aid packet. The time has flown now that we are a week from graduation but time seems to have stood still in regard to the IRS getting our information to us.

The milestones for Alyssa have been nothing less than remarkable. She was stunning at her prom, as were her friends. All the makeup and hair up do’s were simply gorgeous on all of them. Although at that age all the girls could have worn a paper sack dress and still have been beyond beautiful. They went to the beach for the weekend after the prom and from what I can tell it was pretty uneventful. For that I’m so, so thankful.

This past Friday at our church high school youth group meeting they had a special event honoring the graduating seniors. It was great, the youth leader set things up as if he were interviewing each senior on the Tonight Show. Asking them what impacted them the most about youth group, what had their parents taught them that stood out the most, etc… It was really nice and some of them were so funny telling stories that made us all laugh out loud. Afterwards all the seniors were prayed over, it was so moving.

As for the group home placement and Thomas, I guess no news is good news. Tommy and I met with the agency’s nurse and psychologist last week and we liked them both. I’m thinking the last thing for the agency to do is screen Thomas to ensure he is appropriate for their group home. Its the hurry up and wait issue that bugs me. I’m not a good “waiter” for lack of a better word. At the meeting we discussed Thomas returning to the former school he attended before he went to residential. He would stay there a year until he turned 21 and then attend a day/vocational program. I’m thrilled with that plan as Thomas could then “graduate” from that school. Of course a CSE (committee on special education) meeting would have to be held to change Thomas’ placement and I doubt the board of ed will deny moving my son from expensive residential school to less expensive public day school. I just want all the pieces to fall into place…now. But I know things will happen in God’s time and his time is always perfect.

 

Waiting on the group home part 3 (I think)

Things are moving along albeit slowly but that’s okay. Slow and steady is fine for both Tommy and me. I’ve learned that an agency here had requested Thomas’ “packet” from his current school and it was quickly emailed off. I still have phone calls to make, Thomas is in need of a “Medicaid service coordinator” or MSC for short. This person will help greatly in setting up services for him when he comes to live in a group home. Thomas has  had MSC’s in the past when he lived at home. So we’re familiar with their role. Tommy and I are also meeting with the group home’s nurse and psychologist this week.  I’m looking forward to this meeting.

I have something amusing to write about. The person from the state who was previously pressuring me to accept group home placement in other boroughs *except* for the one we live on is now totally on board for Thomas to live here. On this borough. Really? The other day this person said to me, “You’ve been away from your son long enough, you need him to live near you now…” It was all I could do to not reply in a sarcastic manner but I knew I just couldn’t. Instead I exclaimed my agreement with them, “Oh yes, exactly!”

I’m so grateful to my church family for praying with us for the group home placement to happen. People I didn’t even realize were praying for us are doing so. The power of prayer is real and I’m honored with this wonderful group of people. It’s amazing how the Lord works, He is worthy to be praised!  When I look back at my  journey with Thomas it’s the times I know that God was with me that mean the most. He is always with me but the distinct times I know God was blatantly, no argument, hands down, definitely answering my prayers mean so much; how do you put it into words or explain it to someone? You can’t. You have to believe.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10) is one of my favorite Bible verses. In looking up this verse I learned that “Be still” is to stop frantic activity, to cease and to look to the Lord for help.In this life I lead now,  I can see no other way to face a problem. Acknowledging that God is all knowing, everywhere and all powerful; trusting Him and His plan; that we understand who He is. When I am still and surrender to God I know I can find peace.

 

 

The Typical Child.

Our oldest daughter, Alyssa is graduating high school this June. I’m amazed at how fast time has flown. It literally seems like just yesterday I was seeing her off to pre-school and she was crying for me to not leave her. I can’t help but remember her as a baby and how pretty she was/is. When Alyssa was born we were living in the first house we bought and thought we would live there forever. Two houses and two more kids later…things change.

These days Alyssa is driving (which surprisingly does not freak me out), off working her part time job or babysitting *and* planning for the next phase of her life: College. She’s planning on attending college in Manhattan at a fashion business college right in the heart of midtown. Exactly where she wants to be. I’m excited for her and I know she’s going to do well in college. She did really well in high school keeping up with the demands of the International Baccalaureate program (which is pretty much a super high honors program with the added bonus of earning college credits while in high school). I know I sound like I’m bragging but I can’t help it, we are very proud of her. Especially since she is the first child following Thomas.

When Alyssa was born I was so, so happy to have a typical child. Thomas was only 2 years old when Alyssa was born and his behavior was already off the hook. While Thomas was busy being his special needs self and I was attending to those needs, Alyssa would quietly meet every developmental milestone. To the innocent bystander Alyssa wasn’t doing anything “great”, but in my eyes she was. I noted every single one of those milestones and reveled in them. My mother and I swore it was as if she read a growth and development book and knew what to do next. I thanked God everyday that she was so typical.

So here we are almost 18 years later. Alyssa is still meeting milestones and doing what she’s “supposed” to do. God is still working in her life in a mighty way. We’re still attending to Thomas’ special needs but life isn’t as hectic as it used to be. Alyssa has been able to shine in her own typical way and that to me is fabulous.

Hurry up and wait…

I’ve spoken to the director of the agency who owns the group home we want Thomas to live at. In turn he, the director; spoke to the person from the state who is in charge of finding a group home for Thomas. The director informed state guy that we want Thomas in his group home, I called state guy and told him Tommy and I want Thomas in that particular group home. Sounds simple right? No. Now state guy needs to see if the state and the powers that be, will approve Thomas leaving his current school before he turns 21. I’m not good at waiting. Not good at all.

We need prayers guys! Prayers that this is God’s will that Thomas is to live in this group home. I told state guy that we are totally okay with Thomas leaving his school before he turns 21. I get almost giddy to think he could be living so close to us. I imagine simply having him over for dinner, going to the mall just “because” on a Wednesday night, walking down to the “famous” Italian ice place down the street on a summer night… Not having to schedule and plan every single visit. Don’t get me wrong I adore the staff where Thomas is now and they have been completely accommodating to us and it will be difficult to leave them, but it’s time for a move and I pray this is God’s plan for us. But for now we wait. I don’t like waiting and not knowing. This is so out of our hands: But I know it is in God’s hands.

And so I pray. And I ask my prayer warriors to join me.