Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A little tweaking...

I feel like life is beginning to slow down a bit. We are all adjusting and "getting the hang of things" now that school has begun. It was a really rough start. Maybe on the outside it didn't seem like much, but those first two weeks of Brayden going to school were completely emotionally exhausting!

As parents, Darcy and I were on the verge of tears many a night...filled with frustration, confusion and a lack of answers. Brayden was acting out aggressively at school and it seemed like all of our efforts were failing and each day kept getting worse. He would come home completely exhausted and sensitive and we could hardly get him to communicate and tell us about his day. We thought the first week of school would be the worst, but week 2 proved us wrong. 2 trips to the office and phone calls from the principal, a phone call from his teacher and 4 out of the 5 days he was disciplined for hitting or pushing. We know our son. We understand that Brayden is active, has a lot of energy and is easily excitable. However, it was unusual for him to exhibit such aggressive behavior. And, he was acting out during the "fun" parts of the day (lunch, recess, snack time, etc.). We had so many questions and doubts. There was part of me that looked at him with frustration and wanted to wring his neck because I knew he knew better, and there was part of me that looked at him and my heart broke because I knew he was trying and was having an enormously difficult time coping and adjusting to this new and overwhelming routine. I think he was just as frustrated with himself. I worried that the aggression would lead to peer rejection and that all the focus on his negative behavior and the daily expressed disappointment from Mom and Dad would soon affect his self-esteem, leading into anxiety issues and a permanent dislike of school in general.

We tried tweaking and trying many things: a behavior chart at home that mirrored his behavior chart at school, a reward chart at home, we tweaked his diet and spent countless hours reading books and websites that offered advice and/or answers (in regards to hyperactivity, aggression, sensory issues and self-regulation, etc.), we changed our nighttime routine and adjusted our morning routine...and we were persistent in prayer. I spent many moments of many days on my knees in prayer. I asked everyone close to me to pray for Brayden and put him on my Bible study prayer list as well as our church prayer list. We were open to all ideas and advice and appreciate everything that was suggested and learned. We researched many topics via several avenues, but kept the Lord as our #1 resource for guidance and answers. And God is good...

I am so happy to report that the prayers and the tweaking have been successful! Week 3 was great and all of the aggressive behavior has subsided! Week 4 is off to a great start with today being his best day yet! We seem to have our old son back! He is still Brayden, lively and full of fun, in need of daily reminders...but not in a way that is interfering or disruptive during school. Thanks so much for everyone who listened and prayed! And thank you Lord for holding our marriage together during this time. Never once in our frustration or exhaustion did Darcy and I quarrel. We were a team and encouraged one another every step of the way. God is good!

So, we prayed...God answered...and everything turned out OK. You'd think that the story happily ends here, but in all honesty, it wasn't all that peachy and perfect. There have been some tugs at my heart throughout this whole process. During this trial, I must confess that I was having a bit of an "issue" with God. See, I had prayed all summer long for Brayden, for his future teacher, for his classmates and future friends. I was safeguarding and preparing him, right? Because I was proactive, the Lord should have answered my prayers, right? After all, there are probably many who didn't pray for these things ahead of time...perhaps? My prideful heart thought so. Wow, was I ever wrong. While Brayden was adjusting and improving in week three (an answer to prayer), the Lord was allowing me to take a good hard look at myself in the mirror...and I didn't really like what I saw. God doesn't owe me anything. He should be the One owed...He is ALL deserving of my trust, my faithfulness, my obedience and my gratitude ALL of the time. I certainly wasn't giving those things to Him wholeheartedly. While I was persistent in prayer, deep in my heart I was still questioning if He had heard me and feeling as if my prayers were unanswered, feeling as if I deserved for Him to answer them my way, in my timing. I realized that I am one of such little faith....and this wasn't even a huge storm in life. I didn't even give God a chance to respond to my prayers before taking (unjustifiable) "issue." I'm confronted with areas of pride and unbelief in my life. I'm realizing that I need to wait on Him, that at times He may answer my prayers in the way I desire, and there will be times that He won't. But that at ALL times, He is faithful and just... He is God, and He is good.

I've learned a lot over this past month. I was blessed to have an hour long conversation with my Gram last night and she mentioned that perhaps this trial was not just for Brayden, and may have been more about God growing me. I think she is right. Brayden's routine wasn't the only thing in need of tweaking, my heart was as well. It doesn't always feel good in the process, but afterall, I am still clay.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dancing Queen...

Young and Sweet, and she's only Three!
Our little Brookie...

had her very first dance class tonight.
(As her mommy, I have been waiting for this moment for a very long time!
I danced when I was a girl and loved it! I always knew that if I was blessed with a daughter I'd let her try dance as soon as she was old enough.)

She was so proud to wear her leotard

(aka "dance costume")

She even came up with her own dance moves...Ballet or yoga?
her own form of "plie" (looking ever so graceful)

She is dancing at a little studio called "Happiness is Dancing." It's a one hour class held once a week. They spend 20 minutes on ballet, 20 minutes on tap and 20 minutes on acrobatics...and afterwards they get a sucker

(that'll definitely keep her coming back!)

"A daughter is a day brightener and a heart warmer." ~Author Unknown

I couldn't agree more.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Voice of Truth

So I was feeling a bit downhearted yesterday. I feel like the past two weeks have been somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. Brayden will have a good day at school and I'll think we are making progress, and then we'll have an OK day (a friendly reminder and a warning) and then a "so-so" day (friendly reminder, warning, then a timeout) followed by a "not-so-good" day(friendly reminder, warning, timeout, recess time deducted and note sent home to parent). Yesterday turned out to be one of those not-so-good ones...ending with a phone call from his teacher and a disappointed mommy.

We really like Brayden's teacher and feel confident that she truly likes him as well (that's important!). She says that he is a good little boy, that he is polite and, in general, is not defiant or naughty...but that he needs a lot of reminders. So many that it is becoming disruptive to the class and she doesn't want him to be the "stand-out." And they are simple things like "Brayden, sit still please, stop talking, please don't interrupt, stay in line, be quiet, keep your hands to yourself, don't touch," etc. But because it is so frequent, she suggests we all get on the same page and come up with a behavioral chart for school and for home.

It seems so simple...so why so discouraged, right? I don't quite know, except that as a parent you try really hard to do and say the right things, to teach and train and be a good example to your children. And, sometimes it feels like those efforts aren't working. It can be overwhelming and exhausting and emotional. I don't want Brayden to be known as the trouble-maker. I just want him to be a normal kindergartner who can follow the rules, pay attention, listen, learn and be respectful. Why is that so hard to do?

It's easy to slip into a mini-pit and feel like you've failed somehow...then the doubts, worries and inadequacies enter the picture and try to consume you. That's where I was today...but I am making a choice to overcome these thoughts.

When I dropped Brayden off at school today he did not want me to leave and chased me out of the classroom as I tried to go (didn't leave me with warm fuzzies). And then Brooke and I go to the gym and she is doing the same thing when I try to leave her in the childcare center. I really was not in the mood to exercise. I wanted to curl up and just avoid people, avoid life...but I was looking forward to listening to my ipod. I can't count how many times music has ministered to my soul...and today was one of them as well.

I was chugging along on the treadmill...it was a Casting Crowns day and the song "Voice of Truth" came on. Normally, I just forward past that song looking for a more upbeat one to keep me motivated...but today I chose to listen. I have heard this song a hundred times before. It's a good one, but today it really spoke to me.

I know this whole "Brayden school thing" is not a big storm in life. But, it is important to me, which means it is important to God as well. And besides, isn't that what life is made up of? Small storms, life worries, and daily struggles? And as I am listening, God starts slowly working on my heart and reminding me of many truths...

But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me time and time again
"Boy, you'll never win, you'll never win."

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
the voice of truth says "do not be afraid!"
and the voice of truth says "this is for my glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

And as I am allowing the Lord to minister to me through these lyrics, I have to run with my head down to hold back the tears. And I am reminded that God is big enough. He was big enough to help David fight Goliath...and big enough to help Gideon defeat the Midianites (who were so large in number "They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels." Judges 6:5-6) But Gideon defeated them with only 300 men! If my God is big enough to conquer what seems to be the impossible, then He most certainly is big enough to guide me through this little life storm...And the sweetness in it all is that He wants to, He cares to.

So, we move forward. We choose not to stay in the past and dwell on mistakes or inadequacies...but rather be thankful that the issues have been recognized and can now be addressed. I am thankful for my husband, because he is not a pit dweller. He is a proactive problem-solver, an optimist and an encourager. He's taking this thing head-on saying "Come on, let's move with this!"

So, today, when worries try to filter their way into my mind...I am making a conscious effort to listen and believe that Voice of Truth.

P.S. If anyone has any tricks up their sleeve, advice or knows of a good behavior plan/chart...we are all ears. As part of our nightly "Quiet Time" ritual, we read anywhere between 3-5 books to the kids once their pj's are on and they are ready for bed. Last night we changed it up a bit and now "quiet time" is a sample "rug time" where the kids have to each sit on a rug and listen as we read the stories. They have to practice sitting still, keeping quiet and keeping their hands to themselves (just as they would have to behave in school). Any other ideas such as this, send them our way! And please pray for us, and Brayden.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Our Little Lamb...

Just started preschool yesterday!!!

Yeah Brookie!Brooke was very excited to go to Little Lambs "all by herself!"

and proud to carry her very own backpack
she looks pretty cool, huh?
So many pictures on this Big Day!
She did well posing for Mommy...
until Mommy wanted to get a picture with her...

Brooke is in the same class with two of her best friends: Marissa Knepper and Sami Conkey
and since her brother went to Little Lambs for the past two years, she is already familiar with the building and several of the teachers...what a PRO!

Brooke was not shy on her first day and enjoyed talking/sharing during Story Time
("My brother goes to school and rides the school bus" and "I like ice cream!")
(...those were very important details for her teacher to know at the time)

It was a fun day...a little playtime, a story, a sing-along
and a snack! good times with good friends
Bye Little Lambs...I'll be back again on Thursday
What a great day!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

GO Green Grasshoppers


Our little star GRASSHOPPER

had his first soccer game on Saturday
The Grasshoppers vs. The Dragons

Those Dragons were relentless...but the Grasshoppers had tenacity (even when their legs hurt and they all wanted to take a break)...they pressed on toward the goal.
It was very exciting and hilarious to watch these little pee-wee soccer players going after the ball...it was indeed more like a game of "herd-ball"
Brayden had a couple of good plays and even blocked a very close goal
(way to hustle Bray!)

And he had his very own cheer section
What a game! It ended in victory (for both sides)...and a well-deserved snack!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

His Mercies are New Every Morning....

I had trouble falling asleep last night. An hour and a half after I finally fell asleep, Brayden woke me up because he had had a bad dream and was scared. Despite not having the most restful sleep, I still woke up this morning feeling better than I did yesterday. A book I read last year called "Humility: True Greatness" (by CJ Mahaney) talks about sleep as a gift from God. It is something we require. He could have designed us to not need sleep at all...but our need for it reminds us of our dependence on Him...A great thought to end our day remembering. It restores our bodies and refreshes our minds and souls...reason enough to wake up and give thanks to Him.

From the moment I woke up, I kept thinking about a verse in Philippians "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." This verse kept scrolling through my head repeatedly all morning. I love that about God. He speaks to us through His Word...it does not return void.

I was also reminded that He does not give us a spirit of fear and that my anxiety was a form of fear...not coming from Him and not desired by Him. God takes care of me...He is the Great Provider and He reminded me of this once again. He cares about my smallest needs and desires. He knows me well. He sprinkled my entire day with sweet simple blessings...Some of those blessings included:
1.) Brayden waking up excited about school and excited about riding the school bus for the first time. His excitement was contagious.
2.) Seeing Mike and Kelly in the school parking lot this morning....Familiar faces, genuine friends.
3.) Karen's phone call. Another reminder and example of kindness and friendship.
4.) Brayden met a friend the first day of school (Lucas)...Lucas rides the same bus as Brayden and they are in the same class. Now he'll have a bus buddy!
4.) My mother-in-law's Aunt canceled their usual Wednesday lunch date--freeing up her entire day which she chose to spend with Brooke and I...we went shopping at Partridge Creek. This helped the day go by faster and for me to be distracted (doing something I love to do-SHOP!)
5.) I found a couple of incredible unexpected sales. A scarf for $1.80 and a pair of jeans at the GAP for $17.00 (both weren't marked at these great prices, but miraculously rang up that way!)...Yes, that was God too (I told you he knows my every need and desire)
6.) Brayden's beaming smile as he got off the school bus and ran straight into my arms (the highlight of my day...see last pic)
7.) Because of the storms, his first soccer game was canceled. He was really disappointed, but I knew he had already had a really long first full day of school. This allowed us to get home, play a couple of games, take baths, read stories and get into bed by 8:15pm!

Overall, it was a good day. I have gotten past a lot of the "unknowns" and feel a sense of peace. I was able to follow Brayden's bus to school and saw the routine of the kids getting off the bus and safely into the school. He had a couple more reminders today, but I think that most things will work themselves out as he gets more acquainted with his teacher, the class, the routine and the expectations.

Here are a few photos of Brayden's first 2 days of kindergarten!

Breakfast for a champ!
We are off to school!
Brayden in front of the school
Showing off his Star Wars backpack
Walking down the hall to his class
In front of his classroom
Inside the classroom
Working on a puzzle
Brayden and his teacher, Mrs. Blanzy

His school
Today, his first FULL day
Waiting at the bus stop

The look of anticipation
Here it comes!

That's him waving
Me following the school bus...took this from inside my car
Getting ready to go into school
Yeah! The day is over..here comes the bus
Here he comes!
Running into his mommy's arms...look at that face!
Feeling good, feeling relieved, feeling at peace.