Thursday, April 30, 2015

Helping Kids Shine!

The signs of spring are here....finally!

And with the arrival of spring comes the annual radiothon with 610 AM, 105.7 EZ Rock, and 97.7 HTZ -FM which raises awareness and support of the Niagara Children's Centre.

This year, it's a new design and a new name: Helping Kids Shine!  Check out the website here. You'll see some familiar faces - Rachel and Janneke, as well as a number of our friends like Kaiden and Megan who are serving as ambassadors for the Centre this month.

Consider joining the team of support for kids like our girls. With Rachel's birthday on May 4, we are marking 9 years of life for her and almost 9 years of being supporting by the Centre. We couldn't have given her the quality of life she has without the Centre and its amazing staff.

So, tomorrow, Janneke and Rachel will hobnob with the radio personalities... Rachel will probably give them her "I'm gonna size you up first" eye, and Janneke will probably walk or ride circles around them all, oblivious to their fame. Shine, baby, shine.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

sacred timing

Wanted to share this...

Had a great time with the women's conference at The Meeting House yesterday. Great to be with more than 800 women, some familiar faces and others new. Special thanks to Leanne Friessen for being our speaker and Brooke Nicholls and band for giving of themselves in the day.

During the morning session, as part of a book panel, I had the opportunity to share about loss as it relates to one of my favourite books, A Grace Disguised by J. Sittser. As per some of my other posts, I refer to the journey Ralph and I share in parenting children with special needs as a living grief. No one has died, but we have experienced the loss of a dream of what we thought would be our child -twice. We're not consumed by sorrow; our new normal includes learning to live with this type of loss. 

And part of this new normal is supported by images and words that encourage the hope of finding joy in each day. Rather than read a passage from Sittser's book, I decided to share the imagery which had moved my heart. One of the images I described in our book panel with the conference goers was the idea of loss of any kind being a stubborn tree stump that can't be removed. It's ugly and visible. Yet... over time, we plant flowers around it; we begin to see good things growing from within and around the stump - and it is soon surrounded by beauty. As with the stump, we can't remove the loss or "get over" the loss, but its ugliness can covered and surrounded by good over time. 

After that morning book panel.... 

At lunchtime, I met up with some of my mom's friends. One of them, Riekie, had messaged me a week earlier, saying she had a painting of my mom's she wanted to return to the family. Before she had kids, my mom was an avid oil painter. This painting was over 40 years old, and it was time to return to our family.  Riekie did not describe the painting to me, so for all I knew, it was of another one of Mom's birch trees pieces. I didn't think too much more about the subject of the painting.

Yet when I met up with Riekie and a few other ladies at lunch, they were quite excited to share with me. For only God could have planned this moment. As I uncovered the painting in the small crowd that gathered, I soon understood their emotion. The painting? It was of a tree stump, surrounded by wildflowers. Sacred timing.

I brought the painting on stage after lunch. Almost 20 years after her death, her painting reaffirmed for the women gathered in the auditorium that brokenness -loss- is not the end of the story. Her gift from over 40 years ago will be treasured for a long time. Good things can happen and greater things can be anticipated. Grace in the grit of life. 


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

schooling thoughts

just chillin' to some 1980s Raffi

As with other years at this time, decisions are made for Rachel and Janneke regarding the next school year.  This is the time when the staff at the Niagara Children's Centre School reviews all the kids connected with the school to determine if the child will best benefit from remaining at the Centre school - or best benefit from transitioning into the local community school.

Well, it's time for transition. Gulp. This fall will bring a major change for Rachel. She will be transitioning from the NCC to her community school.  This fall, Rachel will attend Beacon along with Ralph and Soph. (Em is moving on to high school!)

Transitioning to a community school is a lengthy and layered process. There are the tough-to-hear stories of children with complex needs in community schools. Actually, there are a lot of those stories - children with EAs that come and go, children who are reassessed too many times and sit on waitlist after waitlist for therapy and resources, children whose needs are not met because policy trumps the child....

But, right now, I want to listen to the stories of success. There are some amazing community schools out there with caring staff who go the extra mile to help these kids - and we're hoping to add Beacon to that list.  If we can learn from other's stories and from our own mistakes, good things will happen and even greater things can be anticipated.

So... we told the Grade 3 class today that Rachel would be joining them this fall. These kids know Rachel because she has visited them over the years .

Yet, I wondered what their reaction would be to the idea of Rachel coming every day. Most kids show it "like it is" on their faces - no pretense. When Ralph said that Rachel would be coming to Beacon every day instead of the Centre this fall, the kids' mouths dropped and many of them cheered.  One boy in particular pulled his fist into a pump with an audible "yessssssss!"

(Yes, I told his mom later how much he made my day.)

We know that Rachel attending Beacon is going to change things for the school, the students, the community, our family... and there will be bumps along the way. Good things are happening already, and we anticipate a great year ahead.

Janneke? She will continue at the Niagara Children's Centre School. They will continue to work with her on communication and fine motor skills. The school will also be available as a resource should we need support at Beacon in Rachel's transition process. There are also times when students return to the Centre school for a year to receive intensive therapy or skill building that can't otherwise be found in the community school.

The most amusing part of this afternoon's announcement? Ralph and I talked with the class about being Rachel's voice -and her hands and feet. We talked about what it means to take care of each other. I then asked the boys and girls if there were any questions or worries about Rachel joining their class. I had anticipated they would talk about the drooling, the feed pump, or the wheelchair. The first question? "How tall is Rachel?" And then the conversation was about whom Rachel was taller than and who was the same height as Rachel... how normal.  Later, I was asked, "Does Rachel had a backpack like mine?"  Love it.

Just when I wonder if Rachel is miles apart from her peers, it's her peers pulling ME back and reminding me that sometimes the differences are only as gaping as you make them.

We appreciate your thoughts and prayers as we journey on.