Sunday, June 30, 2013

Book Review: The Point by William E. Jefferson

The Point: The Redemption of Oban Ironbout by William E. Jefferson

I had previously been given the opportunity to read an excerpt from William E. Jefferson's novel The Point: The Redemption of Oban Ironbout and originally found it interesting, so I agreed to read and review the entire book.

Goodwin and Hollie, newlyweds, travel to the picturesque Isle of Estillyen for a time of reflection, rejuvenation, artistic exploration, and introspection. This time is important to them as they both attempt to come to terms with the recent diagnosis of Hollie's illness. They participate on "readings" by the monks of Estillyen who artistically weave scripture in a poetic and dramatic way. During their time on the island their lives become mingled with Oban Ironbout, an old, recluse of a man who has lived a lonely life of sadness, pain, and depression.

Overall I was not a big fan of the book. I found the dialogue very one-dimensional and it did not really add much to the characters. Additionally, I felt that this book had two major different story lines that did not mesh well together. Jefferson could have written a book solely on the monks' readings, which would have been interesting, if he had been about to expound on them and perhaps include more of the discussions that occurred after the readings. Another book could have been written that followed the Goodwin/Hollie/Ironbout plot.

Although I did have a desire to read The Point I felt it was very difficult to get into. The monks' readings at times became vague and parts were very reminiscent of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, though not executed as well.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Awana Awards

Still playing catch-up.
Last month, as the school year wrapped up, so did Awana Club at the church.
Will was a first year Cubby and Alanna was a Puggle. They both had a lot of fun and learned more. Will earned all his badges. He also completed his hopper book. I'm glad the teachers took the time to assist him and work hard to understand him while he recited his verses.
my Cubby and Puggle
To finish everything off there was an awards ceremony to recognize all the kids.
And, as you will see below, my photos sucked because the bright lights washed them out!

Alanna sitting at the award ceremony

Will waiting for his turn at the awards ceremony
 As the Cubby group was finishing up I ran upstairs to the tech booth where I usually hang out and snapped off this picture of Will. He was racing above the others to be the front of the line.

Alanna's Particpation Certificate

Will's Certificate of Award

Thursday, June 27, 2013

End of School 2013

This happened last month and I'm finally getting around to posting it... the school year ended!
What a year! William loved going to school and he made so many improvements. The schools around here are great and Will was blessed with an amazing teacher, Ms. L., who really cared. It was sad to say goodbye. Hopefully, Alanna will get to have her in the fall!

The end of school was kind of broken up into 2 main days. On one day they had the little awards ceremony where they sang some songs and had a mini graduation for those who would be moving on to Kindergarten.
Before they started a slide show was running from different photos throughout the year. This is Will with Mrs. T wearing silly hats.
At his point they were just waving and talking.

Singing their Lizard song

 On the very last day children were invited to stop by and say goodbye. We brought some gifts for Ms. L and Mrs. T and chatted for quite awhile. And of course we got a final picture.

Last year Will missed out on the end of the school year because he had to leave early to PCS out here to Ohio. Now we understand how bittersweet this time actually is.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Church Volunteer

Whenever we PCS one of the first things we have to do at our new base is find a church. About a month after we got here we settled on our home church and have been regular attendees ever since. But attending by itself isn't good enough for me. I have to get plugged in and find somewhere I can be involved. We started out by attending Sunday School as well as regular service and our kids were enrolled in Awana on Wednesday nights. But even then we were only "attending."

So... several months ago our church was having a day of auditions if people were interested in singing or playing on one of the {several} worship teams as well as for anybody interested in working in the tech booth running the audio/visual stuff.

After chatting with Ryan I decided to audition as well as go upstairs to check out the tech stuff. On a fluke I ended up being the first person to try out vocally. There were some other ladies I had been chatting with who did not have the lyrics to the song options we were given so I handed mine out. Then I was suddenly called on stage.

Let me give you a bit of info. My church is big. Like, really big. I've never attended a church this large. And because it is a huge church, they really have their act together and talented people are in appropriate places, and there is probably a decent influx of cash available to keep the sanctuary and equipment up to date. They are not running some rinky-dink operation.

I'm called up and I'm a bit nervous. I hate being first. I shake the hand of our worship leader (who I'd never met in person before) and he asks what song I'm singing. I look down at my hand and have one sheet of music there that I had not given away.

"I guess I'm singing this one..." and I hand over the paper.

"Hey, cool. This is my song! I wrote this song!" Pastor D. smiles and gives me a high five.

And I'm all like, "Of course it is." Yeah, I'm totally gonna be the first person here and sing a song that the guy wrote. My butterflies were stirring in my tummy.

I sang the song and did decently. It's hard to hear and I even asked right away to turn down guitar so I actually could make out my voice over the speakers. One of the ladies I had been sitting with told me I have a great vibrato (so of course now I'm all self conscious about that).

After singing I headed upstairs and introduced myself to the tech guys and began learning about the program used on the computer to run lyrics, videos, and pictures on the screens and see how they do lights. I caught on pretty quick and enjoyed being upstairs. These guys were cool and witty and I loved hearing the banter between everyone. Within a short time I was actually the one running the lyrics for the rest of the people auditioning.

Some weeks later I was put on the rotation schedule to work in the tech booth on the weekends once a month. I had been in contact with the guy in charge and received additional training. And now I'm a regular. Now while being up there I actually join in on the banter going on during service over the headsets -- harping on the people downstairs working the cameras and who then comment back to us on where we're slacking and what not.

Anyway, just a few weeks ago the guy who was in charge of all the A/V stuff at church resigned because he received a great work opportunity that would be a wonderful benefit to his young family as well as move them closer to their extended families. Now he's gone, and even though I'm still very new I was put on a list of optional people to put in leadership... kind of like people management and scheduling. I was like, "umm... are you sure I should be put on that list?" but whatever, it's okay. Not much is really required as an alternate and many of the other volunteers they had to choose from are teenagers, hence why I was selected.

I was chatting with an acquaintance at church and I off-handedly remarked that I wasn't available a certain weekend for something-or-other because I was working at the church. She didn't know I already had a volunteer position so when she asked what I did and I told her I was working upstairs in the tech booth she was surprised.

"Isn't that more of a guy's role working with all that stuff?"

I smiled and honestly told her that I'd actually never thought about it like that. Then I realized that, yeah, there were only maybe 2 or 3 other women that I'd even seen upstairs. Mostly men were up there. She gave a little power punch in the air and said something about breaking gender barriers. I only laughed. I never saw a barrier. I saw a place where they needed help and I had the skills to step in and do it.

About 2 months after I began regular rotation in the tech booth I was tapped again. This time to sing on worship team once a month on Wednesday night. Doing that is fun... but I've only done it once so far. This month (June) I couldn't do it because I was away on vacation. I'll let you know how that goes in the future.

Besides doing the tech stuff on weekends once a month and singing worship on Wednesday once a month, I have also been cleared to work in the children's ministries. They asked what I was interested in and I told them that I am just available mostly as a sub or to help with check-in. Just another person in the barrel that can be pulled out if help is needed.

Now I feel involved. I feel like I have a place to do my part. There's always more to be involved in when it comes to a church of this size but for now I think I'm good.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Liebster Award

Well, whaddya know... I've been nominated for a blogging award.

I'll be honest, I've completely been slacking off in my writing so this made me feel better about not posting regularly. There are still people who read this!

Thank you Rachel from My Wholesome Home for giving me the Liebster Award.
A lot of this is just getting to know me and what not... so here goes.

The Rules for Nominated Person: 1. Post 11 things about yourself.
2. Answer the 11 questions from the blogger that nominated you.
3. Nominate 5-11 more bloggers with under 200 followers.
4. Ask 11 questions of my nominees.
11 Things About Me
  1. I absolutely LOVE to read. If I was able to, I'd spend much more time involved with books. And they would be real books. I'm not opposed to electronic books (I do use a Kindle and the Kindle App on my phone) I still prefer the actual pages that require turning.
  2. When it comes to pets, I'm much more of a dog person.
  3. I would choose to clean my bathrooms everyday over having to actually do laundry at all. I loathe laundry.
  4. Before discovering we were pregnant with William, I had been looking into taking the LSAT and going to Law School, like... actually becoming a lawyer.
  5. I once took a special class about identifying your strengths and skills (Engage Your Strengths). One of my top 5, my number 3 actually, was that I'm an "Input"... so basically I'm always gleaning and learning from anything I come across. And random information sticks with me that I'll bring out whenever appropriate (or inappropriate). In case you were wondering, my other strengths were - Communication, Woo, Belief, and Includer.
  6. I'm a HUGE Doctor Who fan. I'm such a Whovian my phone plays the theme song when hubby calls and if I get a text I hear the TARDIS. I secretly wish I'll see another Whovian in public who would hear my phone and start looking around.
  7. I come from a musical family and am also musical. I can sing, read music, used to play flute, can play piano chords, and can fumble around on a guitar. Something I want to point out is that I actually CAN carry a tune. Not tooting my own horn here (okay, I kind of am) but I'm not one of those people who say they can sing and then when you hear them they're totally off key. No, I actually can sing. I'm not a powerhouse or anything, but I have performed many solos, lead worship teams, sang in ensembles and choirs. I like doing it too. Though, strangely enough, I do not sing in the shower.
  8. While at a party recently we were doing an ice breaker. We were to find somebody who had the same favorite movie. I knew immediately I would lose. What's my favorite movie? Zoolander. After admitting this I think it's time to decide on a new favorite movie.
  9. Chatting with my oldest sister I discovered that I, too, have the gypsy spirit. The desire to wander. I always enjoy being on the move and, if I was able, I'd continue to explore and go where my heart led me. Reality and life obligations prevent me from doing so.
  10. I like to research and dream about vacations and travels. Hubby has learned that these are just wishes and no longer gets frustrated when I tell him about them since I know we can't go... he's my logical one who keeps me grounded.
  11. I have swam or at least seen the Pacific Ocean from 5 different countries... yet I have never seen the Atlantic Ocean. West Coast girl? Yes.
11 Questions Answered
  1. Why do you blog?
    • I started blogging, originally, on Myspace while living overseas. It was a way to journal my life and what was going on. When we moved from Japan to New Mexico I started this one on blogger to keep family and friends updated on what we were up to since we live so far away and I also chronicle our family life. It is also my outlet for whatever I feel like writing. 
  2. What's your favorite part about blogging?
    • I like being able to look back at past posts and see what life was like, how I felt about things, who I used to be. I usually write in the moment so when I re-read them I remember my frame of mind and the life situation surrounding my post.
  3. What would be a perfect day? 
    • If it was not a vacation or anything, a perfect day at home would be that I slept in, my kids were already fed and clothed and my house clean when I got up. I would able to play with my kiddos without them fighting or being disobedient. We'd go on an adventure to a local park or museum and I wouldn't once have to raise my voice... and I could actually spend time soaking in whatever the place had to offer. Lunches would be eaten without incident. In the afternoon I'd have time with a friend or four to hang out and chat. Then a sitter would arrive to watch my little ones while hubby took me out on a fantastic date which would include at some point ice cream and popcorn. Once home I'd take a bubble bath in a dream tub that suddenly appeared and spend the rest of the night reading an addictive book.
  4. Favorite Disney character? (You know you have an inner child ready with that answer.)
    • That's easy: Belle. She had brown hair like me. She loves to read books like me. And it took her awhile to fall in love with her Prince - it's wasn't some random love at first sight thing.
  5. Most favorite memory?
    • This is the hardest question because I have so many good memories. Mostly happy things from my childhood. Private and special memories with my spouse. Memories I've been building with my kiddos. Memories with friends. Trips I've taken. I can't pick just one.
  6.  Favorite relative and why (besides spouse/children)?
    • This is a dangerous question because I come from a large family! I love all my family but right now, since I'm on the spot, I'll choose my little brother. He and I were very close growing up and I felt the need to protect him even though he was quite capable of taking care of himself. He's incredibly intelligent. He's strong physically & mentally and has a lot of motivation. He also has a good heart. And I think even if he wasn't family he'd be somebody I'd want to be friends with because he's just a cool guy. He'll make an amazing husband and father someday.
      stolen from his facebook page
  7.  Best place you ever been?
    • Oh, I've been lots of places. Each has pros and cons. I'll say Okinawa. It was beautiful. There was hardly anybody around us. Yeah I got a horrible sunburn, but there was an amazing aquarium.
      whale sharks at Churaumi Aquarium
      the beach at Okuma
  8.  Most adventurous thing you've ever done?
    • I don't know how "adventurous" it was really, but one weekend I took the kids down to southern New Mexico all by myself. It was a blast! We experienced many things like White Sands National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns, and the Valley of Fires. And I built up endurance on those long stretches of empty road with no cell service. 
  9.  What one thing can you not live without?
    • my faith
  10.  Favorite hobby/relaxing thing to do?
    • read a good book
  11.  Best piece of advice you've ever been given?
    • I don't know if it was the best ever given, but it definitely stuck with me. Shortly before Ryan and I were married we were visiting his dad and he told us when it comes to marriage "it's the little things that nibble at your ankles that bring you to your knees." It is so true. And when I know people are getting married I pass that along to them. Don't always ignore the small things. Deal with them because it will add up and ruin what you have.
My Nominees
  1. Ashlee @ I'll Love You Forever
  2. Ashley @ Eights On The Move (maybe you'll be motivated to get writing again too!)
11 Questions Asked
  1. What is you favorite movie?
  2. If you could live in another time period, what would it be?
  3. Where is someplace you have never gone but really want to visit?
  4. Favorite 'knock-knock' joke?
  5. Where were you and how old when you met your best friend?
  6. If you really could do or be anything you wanted, what would it be?
  7. Favorite nail polish?
  8. What is one of your phobias?
  9. What is you favorite kind of shoe?
  10. If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
  11. What do you HAVE to have when you leave the house?
Okay, and that does it. Whew.... if you're still here, congrats. And those I've nominated I look forward to reading your answers.

Monday, June 10, 2013

An IQ Assessment

Several weeks before school ended a meeting was lined up to discuss William, his progress, his needs, and what our options are. It was sort of like an IEP meeting, but not. The attendees were me, Will's teacher, the school psychologist, the speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and I believe there was another professional there but don't remember her role.

We are blessed to have wonderful people working with Will who want him to succeed. I have nothing but praise for our experience here with the school.

To start we re-established the basis that William will be staying in Preschool and not attending Kindergarten in the fall. We all agree this is the best thing for him.

Then we discussed Will's progress. He has been making wonderful progress in all areas of development, but is not quite at an age appropriate level. He recognizes most of his letters and can count quite well. He can even write his first name fairly legibly.

The biggest hurdle is his speech (no surprise there). It affects how he interacts with his peers, it limits how well he can answer questions and contribute to class discussions, and it drastically limits his ability to learn phonics when he can't even make the sound necessary to state the letter sound. But, he is improving!

We also discussed how we (collectively, all of us - parents, teachers, therapists) want to see occupational therapy and possibly even physical therapy included during school. He does receive it privately, but he would benefit from additional help. His pencil grasp is not good. His gross motor movements are still awkward. We just want more focus on his weaknesses to shore him up for his future.

All of this basically means that the school wants to do more testing. They also want to do a sensory assessment since he is an avoider of things he is unfamiliar with (textures, food, etc).

What was hardest for me to take in was what the psychologist discussed. Will has had some IQ assessments and did not score well on them. He is in the below average range by 2 points. Like, the mentally challenged section. So now they want to look at a possibly cognitive disability. This is all preliminary and a full IQ test will be done in the beginning of August. The psychologist told me that they actually cannot give a fully accurate IQ test until age 7, but if they have a record of previous IQ tests and he consistently scores in a certain area it is a better picture of what he really is like.

The thing is, the psychologist explained that when working with Will it is quite obvious that he is a child who has had A LOT of therapy. They can't figure out if he is not testing well because he just doesn't care, he doesn't know, he doesn't want to try, can't communicate what he knows, or what! It is possible that he doesn't want answer the question so he knows that if he flippantly starts pointing to things they will move on. Or maybe it is hard and he's just done working and doesn't want to think it through. Or maybe he does know the answer but can't express it correctly. Everyone who has worked with him say he's intelligent, but a question mark. There's something about him they just can't figure out.

After the meeting I had a lot of emotions. He's still the same boy I love, regardless of where that IQ number lands on the chart. It was hard to take in and accept though. And another "mourning period" began for a couple days... just takes time to wrap my brain around the information and face the fact this is what we are currently dealing with.

I talked with a friend of mine who is also a school psychologist. I was able to work through some of my thoughts and concerns with her, and have her explain things from the professional side, which was helpful.

And then, just by chance, a couple weeks later that same friend came over to babysit the kids while Ryan and I were out. After I got home she chatted with me about Will. She calmed some of my fears and bolstered me up. In her opinion she does not see a cognitive disability. She was surprised at how smart and clever and intelligent William is. She agrees that his speech is dramatically limiting how much he can show that he knows and is pretty sure he will score in an appropriate IQ range, if not now, then when he is better able to communicate.

Now school has ended and I am working with both kids at home. I'm not sure how many days a week we'll be working, but I have begun a modified homeschool curriculum to work with (mainly) Will during the summer. Alanna is just participating because she's there, but she loves it. I'm using Handwriting Without Tears. I'm not completely certain of all the things we'll be working on, but right now we're working on writing and recognizing letters, letter sounds, drawing a person (Mat Man), proper pencil grasp, and cutting with scissors.

Our work is going well. I'm trying to make it fun. And I hope it helps my kids... both are "enrolled" for preschool in the fall, though we're not sure if Lana will actually get a slot. I'm not sure how well I'm cut out for the homeschooling mom role... we'll see how this summer goes.

Friday, June 7, 2013

We reached a breather

Where on earth have I been?

Sorry I kind of dropped off around here. There has been zero motivation to write... though I do have several topics lined up.

AFIT's break has begun so I am thankful to have my husband around again. Leading up to this point life has been pretty stressful. I'm trying to hold things together at home, finish up end of the school year stuff, continue with Will's therapy, and doing things at church. I'm sure that's not really all that much, but Ryan was stressed with his homework and finals and that stress bleeds into the house. It's normal, all the other spouses claim the same thing.

He wasn't available much to play with the kids... and they wanted to play with him. I was stressed because (as somebody social) I wanted to go out occasionally to dinners, or home business parties, or group get-togethers and unless I could arrange a babysitter those outings didn't happen. So then I had to be choosy on what to go to, who to hang out with, and is it worth paying a sitter??

Ryan has been good with trying to arrange breaks for me and giving me acknowledgement for all that I do to hold down the fort. And he was extra nice to bring me home a bunch of chocolate in the days before his finals.

I feel like I've had my head down this whole quarter. I was just striving forward, pressing on with life, getting done what had to be done. Now we're on break and I can finally relax and breathe.

The military's advanced degree programs are no cake walk. They are hard. These men and women are really pushed to their mental limits. I do not envy them at all. Oh, and us spouses take a lot too.

But! But! But! We have now completed what is referred to as the hardest quarter of the program. We are on the downhill slope! Whoo!

That's not to say things will be easy. Hubby will still have classes and research and writing to do, but the intense pressure won't be as concentrated as it has been. He's moving on to thesis work.

My role doesn't really change. I'll still be doing what I'm doing. The nice part is that my husband should hopefully be around a little more... or at least have some flexibility in his schedule to help out if I need him.

Let's just all take a deep breath in... and let it out. Don't you all feel a little more relaxed now? I do.