The relaxing summer days I’d envisioned have become beehives of activity. I’m having a lot less lemonade on the deck and more busyness than I’d planned.
Suddenly every child wants to be an artist, explorer, sky-watcher and camper! Seize the moment, right? We are busy doing watercolors, embroidery and sewing, taking hikes, creating cities and lego characters out of wood, feeding (and chasing!) chickens and the list goes on.
These days are filled with so much happiness, Calvin’s been able to participate so much with us. I wrote about the shift in perspective that’s come with this.
You can find it at Not Alone, a site where I write monthly: This Day.
An aunt refuses my (Mr. Copper Rooster) plea for rescue. Oh me, oh my, the cock-a-doodle-doo bursts unrestrained from me each morning. The master of the house is closing his window at 5 am and saying terrible phrases like, “he’s gone this week, Kara” and “the neighbors are going to croak.” Croak? At my harmonic greeting?!? I say, this humanity grows more hardened to beauty by the day. Here is evidence:
Mr. Copper Rooster,
Your mournful plight touched me deeply. I grieve that your life may be snuffed out so soon. However, relocating to our locale may not resolve this quandary. Our poultry palace has not yet been erected and there are evil villains lurking about in the tall prairie grass. They heartlessly prey on unsuspecting victims and I recently overheard one of them say that roasted rooster has become a much sought-after delicacy. The monarch of our domicile faithfully does his part to eliminate these villains, but he also has been known to eradicate any pesky creatures wandering about. No, I fear this would not be the place for you. Better a quick demise like the squirrels than a torturous one on the prairie.
If I may be so bold as to offer some advice, Mr. Rooster, it may be in your best interest to develop a severe case of laryngitis. That could be one means of prolonging your existence.
The Warden of the Wild Frontier
P.S. If you have not been thoroughly convinced that our location is not a suitable residence for one such as yourself, take note of the heartless rantings of the youngest member of our clan a fortnight ago. “I want a chick. I don’t like chickens. When it grows bigger I’ll just kill it!”
Terrible, is it not? Especially the youngest member, why I’d like to give him a big peck. And laryngitis, indeed! The future is grim yet I remain hopeful that there is a young heart somewhere with compassion who would welcome my regal presence.
Mr. Copper Rooster
Mr. Copper RoosterRead More
To Whom It May Concern:
The sky never seemed bluer than this morning, the grass never greener. Perhaps that is the way all life appears when the fear of death ignites in a creature’s breast. We were made to live, I tell you! But I’m getting ahead of myself, forgive me.
It was only a few scant months ago that I, Copper (formally Mr. Copper Rooster), took my first breath outside the small white egg I called home. My first days were anything but the idyllic scene my mother had envisioned for us. Instead of a quiet barn and sweet smelling hay, I awoke to life in a dull brown box with 10 strange pairs of eyes staring at me and 20 hands reaching frantically for me. If I could have retreated back to the safety of my white safe haven, I surely would have. My heart still suffers from fits of tachycardia upon the memory of it.
The small humans now entrusted with my care have been mostly pleasant. A large grey coop was erected with a roosting stoop. Chester and Caramel (a most docile, lovely companion) and I have spent many pleasant hours pecking and roosting in absolute glory. Small bits of corn and tortilla have brightened our daily fair of dull white gruel that oft fills our platters. Our idyllic existence could have continued but changes threaten. My early fuzzy feathers are changing to brazen copper plumes. This change to manhood is making me feel most regal and satisfied. Good you say? Yes, but alas, it has plunged me into a perilous predicament.
I am living precariously on an urban lot with noise restrictions. While the company of my two plump hens has been most satisfying, I fear the master of the house. He is a tall dark species that roams my property, at times with a firearm and an evil gleam in his eye. Squirrels have rained down from the trees, lifeless, their glory and veracity snuffed in a dark moment. I fear I maybe next as the crow in my voice wells deeper within me each day. It is something I cannot restrain though I try desperately. Tonight I heard the master of the house plotting schemes against me. It makes me shudder, these ideas of letting me loose at an unsuspecting dwelling or ending up like my fellow beasts, the squirrels.
And so I beg you, if you have any heart at all, save me. I will faithfully peck your grass and greet you with the wild call of nature that lies deep within my breast each dawn. My copper plumage will lighten your eyes with each glance laid upon me. It makes me shudder to be reduced to begging, yet the threat of my mortality overwhelms my self-respect. I leave this plea upon your goodwill and conscience.
Mr. Copper Rooster
P.S. I’m including some pictures from my instagram account (cooptales).
Summer is here and even the mosquitoes are rejoicing! Our back deck, dilapidated as it may be, is our outdoor oasis. Cool afternoon breezes and leafy covering from the trees make us feel like we are sitting on the coast. In the night we had a tremendous thunderstorm, I love them! I was up with Calvin, he’s been needing some extra treatments for breathing, and decided to sit up and watch the storm for a while. I love seeing the power of God on display. Job 38 is going to be the chapter I do with the kids today.
The darkness of postpartum has left these walls and I am SO thankful. It leaves me with tremendous compassion for those who live with life-long debilitating mental illness. It leaves me humbled knowing my Creator holds every single cell of me, every single neuron, and it is by his power that I live, move, and have my being. When my feet touch the floor in the morning and I look forward to the day I breathe thanks. When I can eat food and my heart beats normally and I can look at my son with joy, I breathe thanks. Everything I am and every bit of health I enjoy, is from my Father’s hand.
Calvin continues to roller coaster but we have learned to ride it along with him, at times almost “giving” him up only to have him loaned back to us. We have had countless wonderful days we never thought we’d have. Violet is the cause of much giggling in the house. Everything she does is noted with wonder and laughter, the poor child cannot even win if she’s sitting still. The kids are quick to “narrate” everything for her and insert funny quips into her expressions. We haven’t had this much laughter in the house in a long time.
Like every family, we continue to go through many changes but the Lord remains faithful. We are learning that one of the greatest encouragements is to live life forward facing. Not looking back at all the “what-ifs” or “should-haves” but treasuring God’s grace for the past and pressing on in God’s faithfulness for the future.
I found a clip from last April when Calvin was in critical condition. If you don’t mind hearing me sing along with a cold, it’s precious to hear him singing praises to God.
Update (Friday morning): It’s beautiful out my window this morning! “This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it!” Man, you all have been flooding us with love and prayers, thank you! I brought Calvin to the doctor yesterday just to rule out any “normal” issues before calling Dr. Mulder for the big drugs. Guess what? He had a double ear infection! The doc and I both laughed, it’s not often you say, “Oh, I’m so glad!” after the doc tells you that. It means there is not a full-blown respiratory infection yet. Hurray! Maybe Calvin can get back on his feet before one hits again. He has the signs of one brewing with the labored breathing but he’s on his course of antibiotic nebulizers right now so perhaps he will just leave it in the dust! His trembling has quieted, now I’m wondering if a lot of it is a response to pain. Darryl and I are going out with a few friends tonight, we’re thankful for nursing! It’s been a tiring week and it’ll be nice to step away for a bit.
I tip-toed into Calvin’s room this morning. All through the night his heart rate remained low (rest!) and his body was still (relief!). But this morning his heart rate was high and oxygen stats lower than normal. I noticed the sheets moving with each breath, first the tummy rising and falling and then the chest.
I turned him over and felt a hot little forehead. 102.8.
He tried to respond to me but his lips and eyes had begun the shaking so badly he couldn’t use either one. I’m worried about him heading into another respiratory illness with his body weak and tired from the spasms.
Last night we went and bought Evie’s late birthday present, a fishing pole. We told Calvin he needs to rest up and get over this, he and Evie have fishing plans!
Before the muscle spasms started he had been doing wonderful and actually had three weeks that he was able to go to school (3 mornings a week).
We are still planning on ordering an adaptive swing for him. He loves to be outdoors and he loves movement, I think it will mean hours of enjoyment for him. Sheile from Hospice Early Care also contacted us to see if Calvin had any needs…I’m thinking of asking for help to purchase an ipad or tablet for Calvin. He spends so many hours in bed and I’m always leaving my phone in his room so he can listen to music on Pandora. We do have some CDs for him but they tend to get played over and over. Jane, his PT that visits our home, also has some apps that she wants him to try. He does have slight movement in his hand and has the cognitive ability to move activate switches so it might be a neat thing for him.
If you have any suggestions for music (maybe things your kids love) please leave it in the comments. He loves music and some fresh albums would probably be appreciated by him!
Alarms are ringing so I’d best be off. Thanks for caring. Thanks for praying for him.
Just unloaded my phone…here is a nice photo overdose for you.
“I need to hear it from you again that these are not seizures, because it’s screaming seizures to me!” Marlene said. We were standing beside Calvin’s bed, his body trembling from head to toe, mouth pursed, eyes closed and fluttering and his body arched back. I think our misery just at the sight of him may have rivaled the actual discomfort he was feeling.
Marlene, one of our fantastic nurses, was right to question me. Calvin’s neuro-muscular problems have been intense this past week and mimic seizures. If it hadn’t been for multiple EEGs and a hospital stay, I would probably question it too. These episodes have happened before, lasting anywhere from a few days to a week or two. And through it all we feel helpless as we try to bring some sort of comfort to him in the midst of it.
The spasms roll like waves over his body, affecting the largest muscles (legs) to the minutest (eyelids!) with pulsing vibrations, completely closing him off from the world around him and forcing him to retreat into a very uncomfortable tyranny of muscles gone haywire.
But in the midst of it, when I gather him in my arms and begin to sway him back and forth, singing to him and teasing him, his trademark one-sided grin tremulously begins. And I know I’m reaching him. In the evenings as he sits on the couch with his head back, Darryl pulls him onto his lap and I see those little legs start moving in excited, choppy motions and we know, he knows.
He knows he’s loved. He knows him mom and dad, sisters and brother will be here through these tough days right by his side.
When Evie sneaks up and blows him kisses on his cheek, he knows he is not alone though he cannot open his eyes to see her.
When Noah hugs him tight at the table, he knows his brother loves him fiercely whether or not he can join in a game of legos.
When Sophie plays him soft pieces on the piano and sings Amazing Grace (one more time) quietly, in his ear, he knows the music of family will continue on when the silence of pain threatens to isolate him.
And when Violet grabs his hand and pulls it to her mouth, he knows family and love are circled around him.
And when we lift his shaking arms as we sing “Behold Our God,” the joy of that one-sided grin sends all the discomfort and sadness a running. How awesome that God can make these days overflow with goodness as we give to one another.
Some days I can feel the victory that is coming.Read More
As Christians one of our basic directives in relationships is to love our neighbor. A lot of us try to carry this with wrong motives and tactics; motivated by guilt, pity, fear or a false sense of superiority and lacking love and the pursuit of understanding. How can we love our neighbor well? How can we teach our children to love their neighbors well? Especially those different from us in ability and background?
I have found that if you guide interests and conversations in a way that allows kids to explore and imagine, empathy naturally follows. Let them read about and experience what it would be like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. These experiences will be much more powerful than me telling them how they should feel.
Last Christmas Calvin came with us to the kid’s school music program. The church was lit with bright lights; Calvin (very visually impaired) was thrilled that he could see something. He spent most of the time craning his neck backwards and flinging his arms in excitement.
One of the kids started laughing, “Why is he acting so weird? He keeps looking backwards.” His intent wasn’t to be mean but Sophie was defensive. “He’s not weird, he can hardly see anything so I bet he’s excited about the lights,” she responded. “What if you couldn’t see anything, wouldn’t you be excited too if you saw light?” His face registered understanding, “Yeah, probably.”
Empathy was learned by a 2-second experience of imagining rather than a short lecture of how one should respond.
This has been a huge part of our family’s interaction with Calvin. Instead of guilting them into spending time with Calvin or forcing them to pretend it’s fun to play when he doesn’t respond we have used three main principles along with the power of imagination to create empathy.
Of course there are certain rules of respect we’ve laid down for a foundation. Although we’ve never sat down and said, “Here are the rules, follow them!”, there are unspoken rules that shape the culture of our home. They are not kept perfectly but it’s what we strive for in each of our relationships with each other and uniquely in relationship with Calvin.
They know when coming home from school common courtesy is expected. A short, “Hey Calvin and Violet, it’s great to see you,” and maybe a hug or pat are all that’s needed. Even if a person can’t respond to you, they most definitely don’t want to be ignored and need love and respect just like the rest of us.
Another principle is honor. It’s never honorable to take advantage of those more vulnerable. Mocking or teasing when a person has no defense is cowardly. It is honorable to go the extra mile for someone unable to it themselves, it is honorable to give up “fun” to makes someone else’s day a blast. It is honorable (and rewarding!) to include others who can’t include themselves.
Responsibility is a big part of the foundation. It means defending those not able to defend themselves, looking out for someone struggling and being an advocate when possible. It means watching our words when we talk about others. It is living from the perspective of being created to live for God’s glory and my neighbor’s good.
After the foundation is laid, how can imagination be used to create empathy? Empathy is gained when we listen to or imagine another’s experiences and gain understanding. We’ve explored this over the last year, mostly in regards to the world of the blind, because it was something personal to us. It seemed a logical place to start.
We read Follow My Leader, a story about a boy who gets too close to a firecracker and becomes blind. They followed the story of Jimmy as he learned how to read Braille and navigate streets. They fell in love with guide dogs (we watched a documentary and a story about a guide dog) and began begging me for one (that was an unplanned result).
They spent hours outside blindfolded with sticks, listening for sounds, feeling for bumps and trying to imagine what it must have been like for Jimmy. Anytime they see Braille, they have to touch it and when they notice a person that is blind walking with a pole they automatically have admiration. They know a little bit how hard it is.
We read stories about Hellen Keller, a biography of Ann Sullivan and watched clips of Hellen Keller. We followed it up by The Miracle Worker, a film of the story. It motivated me to read more too. I read a fascinating book about the history of education for the blind, stories of the blind in India and the resiliency to live without sight. Although it was not appropriate for kids, I relayed some of the stories at the supper table.
Any family can do this. Learning to love one’s neighbor by fostering empathy can start with anything. Maybe it’s a neighbor that seems unfriendly. Invite them over and learn about their life. Maybe it starts with your kids asking about the people holding up signs on the corner, “Homeless, anything helps.” It can start with reading mission magazines or creating care packages for the kids of missionaries serving far from home.
In the end it’s not just creating understanding for a certain group of people. It’s teaching ourselves to look past the exterior, past the circumstances and see a neighbor. Someone that God has called us to love. Fostering empathy in our kids can become a powerful tool in witness and evangelism as they grow.
Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”