Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Our News

“Accept the children the way we accept trees—with gratitude, because they are a blessing—but do not have expectations or desires. You don’t expect trees to change, you love them as they are.” 
― Isabel Allende

Yesterday Finn was officially diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today I'm feeling rather overwhelmed knowing that Zac and I are the parents of three boys with autism. Three amazing boys , one equally as amazing daughter. When I say I'm "okay" what I mean is "I don't feel like running my car into a wall, I'm not crying for 3 hours a day, I don't stare blankly out my window." When I say "I'm okay" what I mean is "I can see light, I can see value, I can see hope." I feel creative, I look forward to summer - I have joy.  But, if you want to know... I am sad. 

We are completely committed to our Finnian Arrow. He has been such a light to our family and will continue to be - he has so many strengths and I thank God that my spectrum baby can speak, can run, does not have any really horrible allergies that I feel are uncontrollable. I have a lot to be thankful for. I'm thankful for his animated personality, I'm thankful that he is smart and that he knows what he likes and dislikes. I'm thankful that his laugh is infectious. I'm glad that he interacts with others (as best as he can.)  He is one special boy and a huge asset to our family. He fits in here - and I will do everything that I can do to help him succeed in life. My prayer for him is that he can live independently (as much as possible) when he is an adult, that he would know God as a friend and Savior, and that he would be a servant to others. That's it. Those are my wishes. Where he is on the spectrum, these things should be possible. Thank you for wondering and for being dear friends. 

~ Alyssa Spring

Monday, April 28, 2014

My daughter

It's just a picture.
It's my past.
It's my future.
It's the apple of my eye.
It's love at it's finest.
It's just a picture of a precious time.
It's a gift.
It's mine. 
She's my daughter. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

On Homeschooling

One of my dear readers asked me a couple of posts ago to write about our approach to homeschooling. I know that I've written on the subject before - the truth is, my approach is constantly changing with time. Something that I may have found super important a year ago I may not value quite as much now, and vice versa. Even though the books I use and the video resources have changed over the years, one thing, one value, one conviction has remained - keep it simple. Learning must be fun. If I'm going to home school my kids I don't want to become their teacher...I must stay simply "mom." If I become a teacher to them in the mornings and require what a school at the table at 8 am, have your penciled sharpened, don't talk, recess is at 10 and you have exactly 15 minutes to get your energy out...return to the table...finish your five hours of workbook pages...Then afterwards,
I become mom who helps them clean their rooms, teaches them how to effectively help around the house, play with siblings...ect - my role becomes confused. I become frustrated and might as well send my kiddos to school. Instead, I like to approach my entire day as a "possibility to teach" and it doesn't always come across as "learning" even though I am sharing and teaching. 

What I really love to do is find a story with beautiful illustrations or a book at the library and then just base a whole day on that one book. For instance, Trinity got this lovely little book called The Lost Balloon. We may read it together, look at the pictures and talk about how we could maybe draw it ourselves. We think about the different types of paints there are and which ones would be better for our purpose - acrylics, watercolors, just plain old crayons? We choose, we craft. I could take the lesson even further by finding a youtube video about helium balloons and how helium makes things float. I could look up books on balloons and when they were first created. I could google how far a balloon could fly before bursting and daughter will learn reading, science, and art from one book in about 45 minutes. Done. 

Awhile back I wrote about Beatrix Potter and how Trin and I watched the movie together and had tea, then she became obsessed with Beatrix, English culture, art, acting - all from one inspirational movie and a couple of fairy tales. Learning? Done and done. 

There are subjects that require a little more thought from ME however. I'm not the world's finest mathematician. Read that as "I'm lousy at math." However, I can definitely balance a checkbook and I'm good at converting recipes and I can coupon like a champ. I know math the way I need to know math to get through life. I teach what I know to my kids. I do order them a workbook for their "grade level" (whatever that is?!) and I try to finish a book in a year. Right now I'm using Abeka just because it is very repetitive so I get to be the awesome mom who says "only do the even numbers - you're so smart you already know this stuff." I also get to say "skip this entire section, it's a waste of time." 
Trinity is 6 - she knows how many cups are in a pint, how many pints are in a quart, how many quarts are in a gallon. She can add. She can subtract - she is doing well and sometimes I skip workbooks for an entire week. For most people math is a discipline, it's something that we need to know how to do but it isn't always enjoyable. It's good to teach kids why they need to know math - at the store, cooking at home, making playdoh - kids like to know why and it's good to make the "why" practical. :) I also love using youtube for counting songs and learning the 2 family and the four family and so on. I also play "store" sometimes with the kids and let them buy things with loose change so they are learning money values and how to give back change and so on. 

This last week we went to the library and I helped Brady and Trin pick out their first chapter books according to what their interests are and their reading level. Today they both have finished the entire book! I was so proud of them for finally meeting this "step" in life where reading goes from learning and simple stories to pure entertainment. We also found a book about Vikings and a book about Finland so that was our "history" for the week. Zac did a science project with the kids the other day, today the kids asked me the simple question "what is lavender" so we learned about that (and I learned that there is a Lavender Land in Pokemon that is supposedly very freaky). Simple - yet learning - and they will REMEMBER it because it was fun and wasn't overwhelming or threatening in any way. 

One of my values that I think has grown in leaps and bounds just these last few months is that I desire my kids to learn more about living then about "education." Some of this comes from the fact that our sons have autism and so practical life skills are a challenge to them. I would rather my kids know how to use money wisely, make themselves a sandwich, make a bed, be able to converse with people and show interest in other people interests then them having awesome report cards. To me, grades are not important. Serving others, being kind, and loving learning and learning what you love is what is important in this life. Yes, I want my kids to be all that they can be. I would love for them to have high paying jobs someday - I would also love it if they were a ranch hand or a homemaker or a doctor or an artist or a Japanese translator for the court system. Whatever - as long as they are following their passions but can also hold a job.
 This may be silly, but I'm so PROUD because Brady learned to sweep this past week. I have a chore chart for the kids where everyday they are required to make their beds, clean their room and do a "Chore of Choice " (my choice, not theirs.) Brady has a hard time holding on to things , like gripping, so learning to sweep was the perfect project. It take coordination and it's a multi step process. You have to move furniture, sweep around furniture, make the dust a pile, put the furniture back - sweep the dirt into a dustpan and dump the dirt in the trashcan - the lastly, put the broom back where it goes. For those with ADHD, a simple task like sweeping or cleaning a bathroom is a huge challenge. The first two times I had to help and remind him of steps, the last two times he did it perfectly. I was impressed. Had he been in school all day, he probably wouldn't have learned to sweep this week, he wouldn't have completed a chapter book, our family wouldn't have been able to go on a scenic drive, he wouldn't have had black bean enchiladas for lunch and found our he LIKED the texture. I love having the time with my kids - it's what works for us. 

We desire for our children to know God. We desire that He is real to them. A lot of our children's learning is based around our belief system. HOWEVER, I encourage my kids to know that the world is diverse and they need to know how to communicate love and not judgment to those around them. I explain openly with my kids about other religions and even let them learn about them - it's part of culture.  I let them watch videos about their beliefs, we encourage memorizing Scripture (that right there is big time brain building block) and often I use free online printable that are based around learning the Bible. I  use a lot of shows and movies that I believe help build good character even though they aren't necessarily "popular" shows. Trinity loves Hallmark movies about the Western times and she loves Little House on the Prairie. She finds simple living inviting. I introduced her to these thoughts but they aren't "pushed" on her. She also enjoys style and has rainbow colored headphones and plays the kindle every evening. She enjoys soccer and dance. She is becoming a well rounded individual and can think for herself. I want my kids to find the answers, not just accept what I tell them. If they say "why is smoking bad?" I don't want to simply say "because it gives you cancer." It can give you cancer but there are a lot of people who have smoked their whole lives and live until they are 92. That answer doesn't work. I would rather say "well, I know it can give you cancer and it's expensive but why don't we look it up?" Then find out who is paying who to make an "idea" gospel. 
So, my approach .... Simple. Think about what your goals are for your children - what kind of character you desire them to have, what is important in life, what is fun in life - and then create learning around those ideas. I love to use pinterest, the library, youtube, and amazon for my learning resources. This next year we are going to use the local Rec center so that our kids can meet more children and play sport and enjoy art. 

I hope that helps! If anything, it was good to write out my thoughts and remind myself of my OWN values. :) Have a lovely weekend. 
~Alyssa Spring

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Signs of Spring

... glass vases on a glass tabletop - pops of yellow

... blooming pink blossoms

... squinty eyes and bright polka dotted sundresses ( thank you Kaylee!)

... my birch tree growing new clothes for the summer

... playing in dirt, rolling in dirt, dirt in the hair, dirt between toes - just DIRT

... outside conversations with stuffed animals, being out more than in 
* side note * that adorable little eeyore was Trinity's Easter gift and we were able to enjoy his friendship for a total of 3 days. We lost him at the grocery store and many tears were shed. Lesson learned : when mom says "don't take your toys in stores, you might lose them" she know from experience - she's not just being cruel. 

...and once again...the fairies are welcomed and are invited to take up residence in our backyard for the warmer months. The cottage we provide is simple yet comfy, our yard is rich in dandelions and we offer you complete privacy. An entire flock of little brown sparrows and black birds to get "around town" are at your complete disposal - bird seed provided. The roses are just coming up and petals will be plentiful this year ... herb garden coming soon! 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

 Before you take in the the masses of boiled eggs - I would love you to give a teeny bit of attention to my son's amazing hair. My little "surfer boy" finally has a ponytail to go with his love of blue and green nail polish - he is an egg dying ninja. I'm quite pleased with his eccentric taste. It makes my heart smile and my face glow. It makes me one proud mama.

 Now to the before mentioned eggs. Thanks to a recent $15 dollar patio table purchase, we were able to dye eggs in the glorious outdoors - pretty much mess free and we got the added bonus of a sunny day and bird song. This year, by far, was our best Easter - may have something to do with the ages of our kids? It was a joy to make them a special breakfast and hear "wow, you are the best mama ever...your breakfasts are so amazing" to the "thank you thank you thank you" for their Easter surprise chocolate and teeny tiny stuffed animals.
 We were able to take our two oldest to a firefighter chili cook off and order them a special lunch at the restaurant - they were able to eat with awesome manners and Brady would make "chit chat" with the waitress anytime she came around. It went something like this "I would like to order the french fries please...did you know that they are FRENCH? In fact, people in Canada really enjoy them as well." He cracks me up. I'm so happy that he is trying to talk to people and that his self confidence is growing.
 That night we did the unthinkable...again...and ordered pizza for their dinner (we got home late) and had a preservative free strawberry pie for dessert. Just before dinner it began to rain so we had an indoor easter egg hung. The kids had so much fun we had to hide the eggs twice. :) All in all, a very long yet very good day.

 Holidays for us are different every year. Most of this is due to the fact that we are part of the fire fighter world where we never have a set schedule, days off... yah, pretty much no routine. This year Zac had to work Easter Day so our holiday had to be a couple days early, meaning we miss out on Easter service at church. I've had to become really creative - trying to make sure that my kids understand the message of Easter and also have fun even though they usually are celebrating when others aren't. This happens at Christmas, on our birthdays - it just happens. I enjoyed watching the Bible story with my kids this morning and reading the awesome story of Christ's resurrection. I'm thankful that I don't have to be in a building or even with others to fully value the fact that I serve a living God - and that my Jesus lives in me and in my children. I'm happy for hope and for life and for SPRING!

 I feel like with each week we are becoming more of "our family." It's a struggle to not compare "us" to others - I feel like Zac and I often have look at each other, take a deep breath, and remember that this is our journey. It doesn't have to look like everyone else's to be "right." We don't have to go to church, where new dresses on Easter, get a bookmark with "Jesus is Alive" on the top - then go home to ham and deviled eggs. It would be nice ... but it's okay that it DOESN'T look like that for now. Maybe someday. For now, we will be happy with just loving our littles, making special memories, going to chili cook offs and having a beer with Zac's coworkers...and  watching our kids grow in leaps and bounds.

 Heavenly Father is so creative. His love is so perfect. I'm glad we don't all have to be the same.

Happy Easter from the Corley Family. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Warm Weather and Hats We Wear

 So I've had a lot of people wondering where I have been. I guess I can say "hibernating" and that just about covers it. Hibernating ... a time for being inside, ignoring the snow, layering as many layers of layers as you can on top of your body hoping that your extremities will make it till spring. Hibernating, pondering about life and how to improve "it." When I say "it" I really mean "me." That's where I've been for the most part - in my home, in my thoughts, in my kids, wrestling, struggling, loving - just being human. The end of winter always brings a lot of self reflection - spring brings new hopes and dreams and plans. The snow begins to melt and I start dreaming of trips to the garden center and blooming flowers, I dream of camping trips and long warm evenings - I dream of mornings OUTSIDE with my coffee, watching the birds ... instead of inside trying to shut out the winter. 

This past week has brought relief for me. Sunny days so sunny that I was able to hang out laundry (my preferred method.) We were able to take the kids for a walk and picnic, play outside in short sleeved shirts and bare feet - we filled up our bird feeder and watched the little brown sparrows stuff their faces until they had eaten every last seed. It took their small flock 2 days to empty the feeder - I'm not sure if we will be able to keep up with their high demand. They sure were precious though and I loved sitting on the porch swing, watching them fly back and forth to some unknown place, always bringing back a beak full of small tidbits, branches and ribbons and bit of shredded plastic. I watched a pair of robins have had it and after I realized they weren't killing each other but instead making babies, I smiled. Love can be ferocious but nature always astounds me at it's beauty and God's gorgeous creativity. I can't wait to hear the sound of little baby birds. 

The warm weather has brought new projects - Zac made me a bench and we are painting old filing cabinets to use for flower boxes - wait for it. :) 
 The warm weather has brought good news for us - the bank says we should be able to buy a home next summer so now we are in the process of needing to save and save in order to have a down payment. We have been driving around and looking at neighborhoods and having long conversations about what would be best for our kids and their needs - lots of privacy but not really any social outlets or nearby churches, or a good neighborhood close to rec centers but a big enough home for us to spread out? New dreams and many unanswered questions - fun yet a little terrifying. 

Warm weather and frozen bananas, cashew butter and almond milk with a drizzle of honey - perfect "ice cream." 

Warm weather and painted little toenails. This red is called "hot tamale" - Trinity and I picked it out. Tristan prefers the blacks and blues and greens - I enjoy the fact my little boy has good taste and likes to have color on his nails. Makes him look like even more of a superhero then he always is. 

Warm weather and getting to dress themselves - just when we stay at home. :) It's been so nice.
Yesterday it snowed - but today I have been just fine indoors because I think I was able to soak up enough vitamin D to satisfy my soul for at least a few days. 

The sun doesn't take away all of our challenges however. This month is autism awareness month and I took it upon myself to go ahead with the assessment process for our littlest little. Finn is so amazing in every way - awesome at communicating and funny funny funny - but Zac and I both feel that all is not well. So, this week I will take him for a two hour session on Wednesday and Thursday and a team of professionals will evaluate him and then we will get his diagnosis at the end of the month a couple days before his third birthday. We decided just to go ahead with the process now instead of wondering and waiting and then having to go through this next year when we are wanting to buy a home. To be honest, as I usually am, I was not okay with this for almost all of March. I was in the "depths of despair" as Anne would say. Most people do not get it and I often hear "but he is such a great little boy who cares if he is on the spectrum." Well, I care frankly. He is awesome and amazing and should function just fine in society, but it's still me and Zac putting on another hat that we weren't prepared to wear, it's still an added pressure - it's still a worry for our child and it's loss no matter how high functioning your child is. It's still hard. 
It's hard when for all of your baby's  short life you and your husband have watching him, and have said to eachother "oh, he's definitely totally fine, he's developing great." And then one day, subtly you notice little signs, the same signs you noticed the other two times before - and you push away the nagging fear and tell yourself that you are seeing things, that's you're being hypersensitive. One day, you wake up and rub your eyes and you know that what you saw was true, there's no more hiding or trying to believe it isn't true - then you have to work through accepting it and making the choice to actually voice "I think we may have a problem and we need to seek help." 

Our kids amaze us. They are smart and funny and have made so much progress - everyday is still pretty rough for us.  Okay, everyday is rough. Every single day also holds beauty and holds lessons and makes us pretty caring individuals - some days make us feel strong and some days makes our weaknesses pretty apparent.
 For all of March when I would jog I was angry - I'm so glad I could run and listen to music and just be angry during that run. I would cry while I ran and I would be sad - and I would run more and cry more and just feel so bothered and spinning and I knew it was going to be okay - even though at that moment ... it wasn't.
 Yesterday I ran, and I didn't cry ...and I was thankful and felt peace. In fact, I felt so much peace that at first I wasn't sure what the feeling was. But it was well - and I knew it was going to be okay. Zac and I are going to be awesome parents to intellectual Brady, to our beautiful Trinity, to our "heart on his sleeve" Tristan, and to our goofball Finn. We are going to be good partners to one another, we are going to have a strong marriage and we are going to serve others and we are going to be exactly who God created us to be. Right now, He wants us to be really awesome parents to four amazing kiddos. So, we take a deep breath, put on our hats - and we try. 
The warm weather helps.