“Leave no stone unturned in your effort to support the needs of your children. Do whatever it takes to thrive and not just survive.”
I received these words of wisdom 3 years ago almost to the day.
I received these words about 15 months after our family had left everything behind and moved to India.
Embraced these words roughly 6 months after we abruptly aborted our overseas relocation to return to the US so our youngest child could receive cochlear implants. 3 months prior to hearing these words, the pandemic began.
I gripped these words like a boxer in the last round of a fight, after having water squirted down my throat in the midst of a final pep talk.
I needed water, encouragement and I needed it to be the “last” round.
Dramatic? A bit Much?
That’s OK if you think so. For me – no description could be more accurate.
Before receiving those words, I felt like a mom who was at the complete mercy of the world. That no matter what I did, or how hard I tried – I would never meet the needs of my children.
We returned to the US to get our son the reliable sound he needed in the wake of progressive hearing loss caused by Usher’s Syndrome.
We returned to the US, but not to our home. We bypassed our home in Florida to move in with my parents home so we could surround our family with an abundance of support. It was not just our youngest that had incredible needs to fill. Our middle child had just started taking medication for ADHD and was also struggling with undiagnosed Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorder. My husband, daughter and I were exhausted from the intense disregulation and unpredictable behaviors often associated with special needs. So with all of that AND with embarking upon something as involved as cochlear implant surgery…. well – this mama just needed her mama.
I am so grateful for the support and hospitality of my parents during that season. So much love and healing surrounded us in that time. However, the reality was that our lives just got turned upside down, 3 months prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with NO foreseeable access to cochlear implants.
So AFTER receiving those words of wisdom – “Leave no stone unturned in your effort to support the needs of your children and do whatever it takes to thrive and not just survive,” I felt EMPOWERED.
I was so tired of feeling helpless and despairing. I was delivered a call to action that I did not know I was hungry for or even capable of pursuing. Those words triggered a movement inside me.
We relocated back to the home we left when we moved overseas. Within 2 months of moving back, our youngest was in a therapeutic school for children with hearing loss and received his first cochlear implant. Our other two children were enrolled in school, extracurricular activities and reuniting with friends. Our middle son started receiving therapy and support from specialists to help manage and navigate his evolving needs as well.
And the drive to provide only grew from there.
The following school year we found a private Christian School located in close proximity to our youngest son’s therapeutic school. That way drop off and pick up were much more manageable. Because leaving no stone unturned so that our family can thrive involves making mom’s life more supported and more manageable too.
We applied for scholarships for the kids schooling, grants for their medical bills, underwent special insurance screenings and completed endless amounts of paperwork. We received nominations from special needs organizations, and anonymous gifts from watching friends and family all in the effort to help our family thrive.
And they started to. We all did.
Just because we were back in America did not make it seemless, trust me it was messy. It required a lot of trial and error. BUT….. there was a shift!
Jackson could hear. And talk. And understand. He had the best care team ever. From audiology, to vision, Speech, Listening and Spoken language, OT and Pre-K.
Garrett was making it through 3rd grade! It was touch and go at times behaviorally, but academics were a breeze. He was competing in recreational sports, supported immensely in a social skills group and feeling a sense of positive self-worth.
Our daughter was excelling in gymnastics and experiencing the most consistent form of schooling in years (having rotated between homeschool overseas, public school and “pandemic” school.)
My husband was making a positive impact at work and I was experiencing significant life-change in several areas of my personal development and growth. Areas that had been dormant for so long, such as in fitness and nutrition, employment (after a decade of being a stay at home mom) and other areas such as writing, coaching and public speaking.
I can’t believe I received those words of wisdom 3 years ago, almost to the day.
With all the life I just reviewed, it’s hard to confess that these past few months I have been struggling. Life somehow has felt almost as hard as those months living in a foreign country with 3 young children, 2 with unmet special needs.
My blog is meant to be a place where others can feel connection and encouragement. Where other moms like me might feel understood, known and seen. I strive to write from personal experiences laced with faith and belief that God is faithful, good and always with me. But lately it has been so hard to write.
My last blog was titled – when your mess is your message, but its still a mess. I haven’t written since… because the mess took over.
At the beginning of the school year we were in awe celebrating that our youngest was joining his older two siblings at their school as he was mainstreaming out of therapeutic school.
At the start of this year (2023) I even applied for my first full-time job since before my 11-year old daughter was born!
We felt a shift. We felt a new season approaching. We spoke about it with anticipation and excitement.
And then it returned. The struggle.
That all-encompassing feeling I know all to well. When the tension at home rises. Sibling fighting, hostility and tears abound on a daily basis. Phone calls from school increase. Threats of school dismissal become a reality. Medications that your child needs go on back-order. Grades fall. Unexpected financial strain. All the while, YOU Mama – just went back to work, and are blaming yourself for all of it.
Special needs child # 1 gets dismissed from school and now Mom and Dad are both working full-time while home-schooling the remainder of the year.
Special needs child # 2 gets his final warning and impending dismissal from school just a few weeks shy of the end of the year.
I tried to keep it together. Especially when I was at work at my new job, receiving phone calls that my son(s) are about to get kicked out of school. I tried to keep it together when attending the end of the year awards ceremony to support my daughter, but when they called my son’s name (who was at home awaiting a board review on if he could return) I couldn’t keep back the tears.
I tried to keep it together when I saw the Kindergarten graduation posts everyone shared, that we would not get to have, simultaneously wondering if he will even pass his Kindergarten Homeschool evaluation.
I tried to keep it together when my daughter sobbed after the end of the year ceremony when she exited the school to find me sitting on a bench with her two “dismissed” brothers who “everyone” was talking about and questioning her on.
That drive home from school I did not try to keep it together. I cried the entire 45-minute school commute home. A commute we chose for 2 years because it was one of those “stones” we turned over and committed to in order to set our kids up for success. That drive home, one interstate, 2 major toll roads and multiple others, I put on my glasses and just sobbed.
I cried because I knew WE tried. And when I say “WE” I mean ALL OF US. Jackson, Garrett, Gracelyn, My husband, Myself. All of their teachers and administrators, ALL of the ABA, occupational therapists, speech therapists, audiologists, specialists and doctors, WE ALL TRIED.
We left no stone unturned. And we saw them THRIVE.
It has been hard not to ask the question, after ALL that we’ve been through and all that we have worked so hard to accomplish for our children and family as a whole, why does it feel like we are back to square one?
Back to that marble apartment in India that amplified all noises elevating the shouting of our son with hearing loss and the yelling of our son battling anxiety. Where the noise level was so high and intense it felt like we were living life with a hostile action scene from a war movie playing on repeat in the background.
Back to the place of wondering if life will ever be calm.
I heard a quote once, “Roads were made for journeys, not destinations.” I love this because it reminds me NOT to fall into the illusion of “arriving” as if perfection or completion or complete wisdom is something that can be obtained on this side of heaven.
I believe, after years of unexpected heartache and celebration, we are ALWAYS on a journey, and we only seek to thrive along the way. Sometimes we will just survive. But we will not settle for that because we have tasted thriving. We know its possible. We will not give up hope.
So yea, – the past 3 months have been a STRUGGLE. Our mess is STILL our message, even though it is STILL a mess. And as much as my writings share stories of difficulty and God’s faithfuless, mercy and grace throughout, a lot of my blogs are written in reflection not in the midst.
And we are very much IN THE MIDST still. And God has comforted us and provided for us. We might be at a place where we are turning over stones and not finding anything yet. But I know that this season will pass. And I will never stop turning over stones and trusting in my Savior to be with me when it hurts, guide me through deep waters and lead me down the road HE has set before me.
I am comforted by scripture written so long ago yet feels as if it came from my very heart. And I am comforted in the truth that I am actually NOT enough. Therapy is NOT enough.There is no perfect school or state or home. But Jesus is and always will be MORE than enough.
Psalm 27:13 “Still I am certain to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 14Wait patiently for the LORD; be strong and courageous.Wait patiently for the LORD!
In it’s fullness: 1The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— whom shall I dread? 2When the wicked came upon me to devour my flesh, my enemies and foes stumbled and fell. 3Though an army encamps around me, my heart will not fear; though a war breaks out against me, I will keep my trust. 4One thing I have asked of the LORD; this is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and seek Him in His temple. 5For in the day of trouble He will hide me in His shelter; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will set me high upon a rock. 6Then my head will be held high above my enemies around me. At His tabernacle I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD. 7Hear, O LORD, my voice when I call; be merciful and answer me. 8My heart said, “Seek His face.” Your face, O LORD, I will seek. 9Hide not Your face from me, nor turn away Your servant in anger. You have been my helper; do not leave me or forsake me, O God of my salvation.