The last year has been one of the most challenging years so far. But, as is so often the case, it has brought about growth, understanding and strength to us all. It is weird that the things in life which seek to trip you up are the very things which help you to stand firm.
I have not blogged as much as I would have liked this year. The reasons have been many: Taking the older three through GCSEs; seeing Thomas begin college; helping Charlotte adjust to the ME; supporting Lillie through a very challenging set of circumstances; making a HUGE change to the way I homeschool our little ones, whilst desperately trying to find something, anything, which would help my ten year old to concentrate and begin to build the skills which she finds so hard; being the helpmeet to my wonderful husband who last year was working more hours than I had ever known him to work and who was dealing with more stress at work than he had ever needed to deal with …..oh, and a stupid, horrible, no good internet connection which meant that for every hour I spent at the computer I managed to do approximately ten minutes of work. Honestly, I don’t think I have ever felt so much frustration towards an inanimate object as I have over the past year towards my computer!
Yet as we approach the end of 2018 I can honestly say that life is good. In fact, life is very good.
Thomas LOVES his college. He is completing a level three extended BTEC in Music Production at a college where the accessibility of extra-curricular stuff is second to none. Thomas is throwing himself into everything and loving almost every second of it! He has many opportunities to collaborate with musicians, as well as learning to play the drums and keyboard. He is making good use of every opportunity.
Lillie has emerged from a very hard few months over the summer, like a butterfly from a chrysalis. Yes, poetic language, but none the less poignant and accurate. After a lot of tears, cuddles and love, she has her joie de vivre back, and then some! It is like her life was on pause for a year, and now she is throwing herself into everything again with great aplomb!
Lillie has had the opportunity (huge blessing) of helping a mum at church look after her disabled son. This was a blessing for both the mum and for Lillie, because in doing so she believes she has found her calling in life! Lillie has decided to pursue children’s nursing as a career. I always think when God closes a door, he always opens a window, and in this case he has opened many. At the end of the summer she was asked to babysit a gorgeous girl who has Downs Syndrome and was also asked to start a job at a local preschool, one-to-one-ing with a couple of the children there who need a bit of extra support.
School-wise, Lil is finishing off her Art GCSE and her Photography A Level, after which she will begin the more academic route required for nursing. She will be doing a Level Two in Early Years, a Level Two extended diploma in Care, Biology GCSE, Psychology GCSE, and Maths GCSE. It is wonderful to see her confidence growing and the Lillie we all know and love returning.
Charlotte has had a hard, hard year with regards to her health. It got so bad that over the summer she was spending most of her days and nights in a great deal of pain. She was so tired all of the time, she would drop off whilst reading, whilst watching telly or doing school. It is incredibly hard watching someone you love in so much pain, unable to do normal things teenagers do, and yet be unable to help. Some days she would wake up looking grey with fatigue.
We had taken her to one doctor after another, and was given one diagnosis after another. I can’t even begin to express how frustrated I was by the whole process. Thankfully I can be quite assertive when the need arises and in this case it did! I asked (or more accurately demanded) that we see one GP who would be willing to stick with us until we had got to the bottom of whatever was wrong with her. We were very blessed by the doctor who eventually took over her case. He did at least twenty blood tests on her, testing her for anything which might even loosely resemble her symptoms. He referred her to orthopaedics, rheumatology, and physiotherapy. And finally, finally we got an answer.
Since the diagnosis of ME she has had to make multiple changes to her life. She is on pain medication 24 hours a day, and whilst this has improved her pain somewhat, it has not got rid of it altogether. She is still mostly unable to write or type due to pain, and when it is really bad she has to wear splints. She also has an almost permanent head ache. However, on the plus side she is now sleeping at night. Lillie very kindly gave up her room to Charlotte. Charlotte was in under the eves and was struggling with the physicality of bending down in order to get into bed, in addition to really bad hip pain which was keeping her awake each night. We bought her an orthopaedic bed with an orthopaedic mattress which has a thin memory foam layer. She loves it! The memory foam supports her hips well and she is sleeping much better. We also bought a really thick high TOG duvet but which is also very light on top of her. This has also helped with her pain. The knock on affect is that she is now not falling asleep during the day.
Together we have come up with a plan of action to balance her days so that the slumps are not so frequent. It took her a good two weeks to recover from our holiday to Northern Ireland and another two to recover from a sleep-over she was at. Balance is our mantra right now. I insist she gets up at the same time each morning regardless of how she feels, and goes to bed at the same time every night. And she is expected to do chores. She also has a quiet time after lunch in bed so she can nap if she needs to. We decided together that Charlotte will be taking her GCSEs over the next two years instead of one. She is even managing to hold down a job at the local take away. It has been a huge change for all of us, but my goodness does hardship bring character development. It is a privilege and honour to watch her battle negative feelings and win. She understands that she may not have any control over her illness but she absolutely has control over how she responds to it.
This September I changed what I was doing with my younger two school-wise. I had watched as Abigail became further and further behind in all her basic skills as she struggled to concentrate. Her concentration has always been an issue, but I really felt that her lack of basic skills with regards to writing and spelling was beginning frustrate her. I knew we needed a program which would gently build her skills. I turned back to the program I had used with my older three when they were really young and which they had hated. I’d always said I wouldn’t use it again but I had a feeling it might just suit her. It really did and she is coming on leaps and bounds. She is easily reading at above her age level and has finally begun to write sentences which includes proper British spelling! I suspect she would probably be diagnosed with ADD and possibly dyslexia if she was in school. I honestly can’t believe the difference a work book curriculum is making to her. I am so pleased she is finally getting the education she needs!
Lastly, Gary. Well, he has left his old job and is very comfortably ensconced in a new job with one of the best companies to work for in England. He now works just five minutes from home and has a much better work/life balance. As for me, I am simply happy to have all my family around me. This year has been a reaffirmation to me that my mission field is my home and my ministry is my family. So much has been thrown at us this year and we have emerged stronger and closer than ever before.