‘Twas the night before school started….

SH-Zoo-Pack-Owl-Frog-Zebra-1024x682I know many of you have a few days, or WEEKS, of school under your belt already, but tomorrow is my sweet boy’s first day of second grade!  SECOND GRADE!!!  

{insert weeping and sniffles!}

Right now his lunch is packed, his outfit is laid out, and he’s snuggled in bed.

I was thinking through my week and what is on the calendar, and I remembered that this Saturday, September 6 is the Exploit No More Fall Advocacy Summit.

What in the world does this have to do with the night before the first day of school???

It hit me like a ton of bricks….there are so many precious girls (and boys!) tonight who are NOT getting ready for school tomorrow!

These precious children are trapped in sex trafficking.  Instead of laying out their outfits and filling their backpacks, they are enduring beatings, rape, being drugged, and bought and sold for their bodies.  

They don’t get the opportunity to worry about who they will sit next to at lunch tomorrow, or if their hair will lay right, or who will be in their English class.

They are being passed around, forced to do unspeakable things, and worrying, instead, about making enough money to please their pimp so maybe, just maybe, tonight she won’t get beaten.  

My heart breaks as I write this.  I imagine the fear, hopelessness, despair and pain those precious girls are feeling tonight as I watch my little ones sleep.  I can’t even fathom the life they are living.  I really can’t.

I’m writing this tonight NOT to guilt you into action.  But, most certainly, to encourage you, nudge you, maybe help push you into action that has been pulling on your heart too.

I have been volunteering with Exploit No More for some time now.  ENM is working to end sex trafficking in Milwaukee, and also to establish an aftercare home for girls (age 18 and under) after leaving the sex trade.  These girls need so much support, healthcare, education, life training, etc. and this home will provide that.  

But that takes A LOT of people and A LOT of money!  

If you are in the Milwaukee area, please try to spend this Saturday morning, September 6, 2014 8:00-12:!5 at the Fall Advocacy Summit.  The people you will hear from are reputable, knowledgeable, influential, and have been working in the trenches of this issue for quite some time.  

I know it’s hard to give up a Saturday morning, but really, what is 4 hours in the scope of your week considering what and WHO we are working for!

Register here.  If you can’t come, please consider sending someone from your church or organization.  As I said, it takes A LOT of people and A LOT of awareness to end this atrocity in our city.

If you’re reading this, and it’s pulling at your heart, but you don’t live in the Milwaukee area, please consider praying for ENM.  Please consider donating to ENM.  Donations are tax deductible.  The money you donate gets us closer and closer to providing a safe place to girls who don’t even know the definition of the word “safe” anymore.

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SPD, TS, ADHD

Each day that goes by it seems like I love my kids more than the day before.

It also sometimes seems like they make me more gray and crazy than they did the day before!  😉

In August 2012 Caleb was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), just before he started kindergarten.  He has been getting occupational therapy (OT) ever since.  OT has helped him SO much!  Before OT he couldn’t get a hair cut or get his nails cut without us holding him down and him screaming and crying like you’ve never seen!  Now, he sits in the chair to get his hair cut ALL BY HIMSELF and even lets her use the clippers!  Nail cutting is still tough, but is LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than it used to be!  We now have tools to help his body to regulate better.

But, there were still many issues that Caleb was struggling with both at home and at school.  He does very well at school with the tools he has, but because he works so hard to hold it together at school, he lets loose at home and has a difficult time.  There are many things about SPD that can overlap with Autism (ASD) symptoms.  There was just something in my “mommy gut” that said SPD wasn’t addressing all of Caleb’s issues.  He was still struggling and I wanted to figure out why and what we could do to help him.  No loving parent wants to see their precious child struggle when they don’t have to!

We decided to get him tested for ASD.  I was really on the fence whether or not he had it, but it was the next step.  And after this testing I could know for sure either way.  After the testing we were told he is NOT Autistic.  He has some indicators, but not enough to qualify for that diagnosis.  I finally had a definitive answer about ASD.

But, then why is he still having so many struggles?  Well, that answer came from the ASD testing.

Caleb has Tourette Syndrome (TS) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  I still have a lot of research to do to educate myself about TS, but after hearing the professionals explain what TS is and how it affects my sweet boy, it made so much sense!  Caleb has been having tics for at least 1.5 years but I didn’t always know what they were.  They have been getting worse and worse – some to the point that they are hurting him now.  I thought TS was just tics.  But that’s not all.  TS affects focus, emotional regulation, impulse control, and many other things – all of which Caleb has huge struggles with.  The ADHD affects his hyperactivity, focus, impulse control, etc.

I feel very mixed about all this.  I am SO relieved to have some answers now.  We have a better understanding why he does what he does and are now able to pursue how to HELP him with this.

But my heart still hurts hearing what is happening inside his little body, how his brain is misfiring and seeing the affects through his tics, his behavior, etc.  He is such an AMAZING, loving, sweet, sensitive, special kid….but that gets covered up.  He has been feeling bad about himself, believing he’s a “bad kid”, saying that we “hate him” when he misbehaves, that he will “never be a good kid”….all things that break my heart into a million pieces!  No 6 year old should feel like that about himself!  NO CHILD should feel like that!

So now I start the journey of learning more about these conditions and ways to treat them.  I also need to deal with the grief about this news.  I just don’t want my sweet little ones to struggle or suffer at all.  I know, in my head, that we ALL struggle, that I cannot protect my babies from everything in the world.  But, gosh, I sure wish I could!!

None of these diagnoses change who my precious Caleb is, nor does it change my love for him.  It WILL help me better parent him and help him to thrive and grow into the amazing man God has created him to be!

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First Birthday, First Grade, First Holidays Alone

I’ve been silent here for a while.  A LONG while.  It’s been hard to not write, to not process through words on a screen.  But I wasn’t ready I guess.

Tonight I am more ready.

We are all looking back on 2013, reflecting on all we’ve done, seen, experienced these last 365 days before at new year starts.

2013 brought the first birthday of my baby girl!  It was quite a celebration considering all the difficulties of her first year!  In past centuries, and even in past decades, she wouldn’t have lived because of her heart defects.  But God gave us wonderful doctors, medicine and His healing and she was able to celebrate her first birthday healthy, happy, and full of energy!

Caleb started first grade!  It seems like we were just watching HIM smear birthday cake all over HIS one year old face.  But, he is now 6 and doing so well in first grade.  We have learned a lot about him and his Sensory Processing Disorder this year, as well as having some great tools in place to help him be successful at school.

We got our first snow blower this year!  After years of living on a long corner lot and shoveling…and shoveling….and shoveling, a friend was selling her snow blower and we grabbed it up!  How nice that has been this winter already!

But the most recent first has been spending my first holidays alone.  Without the man I’ve (literally) spend half my life with.

Tim and I separated the week before Thanksgiving.  Some things came up in our marriage that necessitated taking some time apart.  I don’t know how this separation will end at this point.  God hasn’t shown me that yet.  I really wish He would, but He knows this is a process and He can’t show me everything right now.  And I hate that.

This time of year has always been about family for me.  Celebrating together with all the family we can drag together as often as possible.  Eating too much food together.  Sharing gifts with one another.  As kids we could always count on seeing our cousins several times in these last months of the year.  We would play with our new Christmas presents together, or model our new clothes as we got older.  We had silly family traditions we enjoyed.  But family was always so central to this holiday season.

I still saw my family this season.  We still exchanged gifts.  We still ate too much together.

But it was so different for me.

Tim wasn’t there.  For the first time in 17 years, Tim wasn’t there.  We started dating in October and he came home with me for Thanksgiving that next month.  And we’ve been together for every holiday since.

But not this year.

And I’m really having to wrestle with God again.  I wanted so badly to FEEL His presence.  To keep Him the focus of Christmas.  To really concentrate on WHY we are celebrating this time of year.

But there were so many other emotions getting in the way.  So many other questions in my brain.  So much stress.  It seemed the more I wanted to feel close to God, the farther away He felt.

My heart and my head are in great conflict.  My head “KNOWS” the Truth.  My head chooses to believe that what the Bible says is true, that God loves me, that He has not left me, that He is with me and walking through this pain with me.

But my heart denies it.  My heart needs God to prove Himself in some way.  My heart doesn’t trust God right now.

I’ll be honest.  I’ll be vulnerable.

I am having a hard time trusting God right now.

I WANT to trust Him.  Because I feel so alone.  I want to FEEL His presence with me.  I want to let Him in.

But I’m scared.

Because as if all this wasn’t hard enough, Tim got in a car accident last night and his car was totaled.

HOW could a loving God add THAT to the stresses right now??  REALLY?!?!?

But, again, I know in my HEAD that God is not doing this TO me.  Because, really, Tim really could have been killed in that accident.  But instead walked away with aches and pains but no (to my knowledge) serious injuries.  God WAS protecting him.

But, still, REALLY?!?!?!?!?!

I’m taking a huge risk writing this and putting this all out there.  But, maybe, someone else out there is wrestling with God.  Wondering if there is a God.  Feeling far from Him during this time of year.  Maybe your head and heart don’t agree.  Maybe you feel lonely and alone.

I just want to say, you’re not alone.  Someone else out there feels like you do.

In the Jewish culture, after someone dies, family and friends gather around those who are left behind in mourning and they sit shiva.  They don’t offer advice.  They don’t try to make the grieving person “feel better” or tell them it will all be ok.  They just sit.  They are just there.  If the person wants to talk, they listen.  If they want to cry, they offer a tissue.  If they want silence, they sit in silence.

I don’t have all the answers.  I probably don’t have any answers you want because I KNOW I don’t have any answers I want!

But I will sit shiva with you.  As we grieve.  And wonder why.

If you’re willing, share along with me.  You don’t have to, and you don’t have to share more than you want.  But I would love to hear from you.

I’m hurting too.  A lot.  But I’m going to keep believing, at least in my head until it gets to my heart, that God is sitting shiva with us.

 

Protect and Serve

Today I was fortunate to attend a “Stop Child Sex Trafficking Advocacy and Awareness Workshop” put on by Exploit No More.  Exploit No More exists to reflect Christ’s love by working to eradicate child sex trafficking in the Greater Milwaukee area. Our primary purpose is to empower—to empower children rising out of sex trafficking through aftercare, to empower everyday citizens to turn their passion for this issue into action, and to empower the voices of communities and victims to advocate for sound anti-trafficking laws and policies. (taken from their website)

The issue of human trafficking is such a ginormous issue – both worldwide AND in our own backyard.  We are focusing here on the Milwaukee area, but wherever you’re reading this, I’m sure it wouldn’t take long for you to find that this atrocity is happening with alarming frequency right where you live as well.

There are so many things I’m processing from today’s workshop, so I figured I would just START here!

Girls get tricked into human trafficking and sex trafficking in a variety of ways and in a variety of places.  They are “recruited” outside their middle and high schools, in malls (yes, in our own Bayshore, Mayfair and Southridge Malls!), outside group homes, on their own front doorsteps.

Men look for young girls who can be manipulated and groomed for this “industry”.  Oftentimes these girls come from homes where they don’t have love, security, someone watching out for them.  Their mom may work many hours, dad has never been in the picture.  Mom may numb her pain with drugs or alcohol.  These girls may not get 3 meals every day.  They don’t get GOOD attention at home.  They’re probably already been molested in their life.  So a man comes along telling her how special and beautiful she is.  He offers to take her out for a meal.  He showers her with attention.  He makes her feel some security.  She feels “taken care of”.

His manipulation is in full swing.  She wants to do whatever he asks because he’s taking care of her.  She becomes fiercely loyal to him.  No one at home notices her.  No one notices how long she’s gone or who she’s with.

He can now take her away easily.  He can get her hooked on drugs and/or alcohol because she trusts him when he says it will be fun.  It will make her feel good.  If she loves him she will do this with him.  It’s something they can do TOGETHER.

He has her hooked.  On him AND substances.  He can now use force, beatings, torture because she NEEDS him.  She needs him for her next fix.

He requires her to work for her fix.  He sells her and while she is out getting beat, raped, traded on the street as a piece of property, he is sitting back getting high and searching out his next girl.

Meanwhile her soul is getting crushed, obliterated.  Her self worth is being ripped away from her.  Her mind is getting warped beyond recognition.  Her body is full of bruises, cuts, sores, filled with disease and pain.  He keeps her drugged up so her conscience doesn’t come to the surface.  She has to be numbed out so she doesn’t fully grasp what is happening to her.

But where did all this start?  Did a little 3, 5, 7 year old girl look forward to the day when she could be traded on the street?

Of course not!

It started with an innocent child not getting what she needed at home to fill her up.  To remind her of her precious worth.  She didn’t feel secure, loved, valued.

So, what can we do about that?

We get paralyzed by the enormity of the problem and think, “I’m only one person.  What can I do?  I live in the ‘burbs, I don’t know anyone like that.”

But maybe you do.  Maybe YOU could help KEEP a girl from going there?

I got to thinking……

I can watch the children in my kids’ classes.  I can see the friends in Adara’s class (when she goes to school).  If one of those girls comes from a home where she is alone a lot, where she doesn’t get the attention she needs, I can provide some of that for her.  Is she lonely a lot?  I can invite her over for dinner.  I can take her home from school and help her with her homework.  When I take Adara out to a movie, I can bring her along.  I can use words that specifically tell her the value I see in her.  I can build her up.  I can help her feel a self worth.  I can show her where all that comes from – a God that is desperately in love with her and SEES her.  I can never replace her mom, but I can help her mom.

I can also give Adara this vision.  I can teach her to SEE her fellow class mates.  I will always PROTECT Adara, but I shouldn’t SHELTER her.  Sure, this friend is likely to use language we don’t use in our house.  She will likely wear clothes I won’t allow Adara to wear.  She will probably see movies and listen to music that won’t be approved of in this house.  I have the choice to shelter Adara from “kids like that”….OR I can engage Adara in conversations about those precious PEOPLE and she can have God’s heart for them.  We, as a family, can serve them and share God and ourselves with them.

As I write this I have a knot in my stomach.  Adara is only 20 months old right now.  What happens when God calls me on this?  What happens when Adara IS in school and I’m required to make good on this “idea” right now?  And Caleb – he’s in first grade.  This could happen right now.

I pray that what God showed me today will be burned in my heart and I will gladly open my heart to these precious children and “make good” on what He has showed me today.  That I will SEE them and pour His love and worth into them so they DON’T end up being easily manipulated by someone who only wants to use and abuse them.

It’s Not Just a Job

1005507_10151669234036158_600362390_nI think we all have days when we go through the motions.  We go to work and just “put in our time” to get the job done and make it through the day.  Even in a job we love, there are days when we are just getting through the day.  If it’s a job we don’t like…YIKES!  Then MOST days “it’s JUST A JOB!”  A means to an end!

But in parenting, that’s really not an option.  Well, not a GOOD option anyway.

I’ve had some days lately where I find myself just getting through the day.  I’ve realized there are moments when staying home with the kids all day is “just my job”.

And I’ve realized how damaging that attitude can be.

It just snuck up on me.  It wasn’t an intentional decision.

I think like most parents I just keep going.  Keep pressing on.  There’s always a list a mile long of things that need to get done between meal prep, naps, playing with the kids, cleaning up, changing diapers and answering a zillion questions.

There is little time left to recharge before you pass out from exhaustion.

But this Parenting Position is not just a job.

These are actually little human beings!  Who will grow up to be big human beings all too quickly.

While that perspective adds more pressure to my already tense psyche, it’s true and needs to be remembered.

I can’t just do the bare minimum to get through the day.  I can’t just keep the kids relatively clean and fed with mostly healthy-ish food.  There’s so much more to these little human beings.

They have a spiritual element that needs to be fostered, an intellect that needs to be challenged, a creative side that needs to be explored, a self esteem that needs to be built up….they are complex little beings!  Just as we all are.

And these little human beings are quite amazing when you take time to look at them.  To really see them.  Their silly faces.  Crazy comments.  Funny perspectives they have.  Their sense of humor.  Their “dreams”.  They are whole human beings!  🙂

Sometimes I wish I could just punch in 9-5, put in my time, and be done with my job.

But God has chosen to give me the two most precious gifts in the world.  They are gifts, not burdens.  Parenting is a privilege, not just a position.