Closer

Closer

In the azure place
where earth and sky collide
and stone rises, turns its cool face
to sun’s radiant caress
in the soft sound
of water falling, whispering
a thousand voices distant in its wake
in the lush expanse
of fragrant green where future
meadows sway in seed-heavy blades
are we closer, somehow
to answers that dance
just here, only inches
out of reach

Homeschooling a Dyslexic Child…If You’re on the Fence

I know that the school year technically has not started yet and maybe nobody wants to think about school right now, but with the crazy year we’ve had we are still working on finishing up.  Plus, when it comes to a child with dyslexia, there is no rest for the weary…taking time off from reading in the summer is the kiss of death for a struggling reader.  If we do nothing else, we have to keep up on the reading!
The good news is, Youngest has come an amazing distance in her reading this year!  It is nothing short of a miracle.  We started the year with her reading specialist gently cautioning me that some children just never really are able to overcome their difficulties entirely, but we are ending the year with my little trooper almost caught up to grade level!  I don’t think any of us really expected the amazing progress she has made.  It’s been nothing short of a healing from God!  And it has also been a lot of hard, hard work on the part of Youngest, her reading tutor, and myself.
If you have a child who is dyslexic and struggling in school and you don’t yet homeschool or you are are unsure if you can handle homeschooling a child with a special learning need…..please consider doing it!  I know many of us feel at our core that we may be not-quite-up to the task of homeschooling our kids in general, the added issue of a learning disability can really compound those feelings of inadequacy.  Can I really handle this?  Or given this special need, should I leave it up to the experts at the public schools? I can’t begin to tell you how much difference teaching them at home makes.  I have never been so glad that we homeschool!  Youngest knows she struggles with reading, but her self esteem has not taken a beating.  On the contrary, she is proud and happy with how far she has come, she is delighted with being able to read at the level she now reads, and she has suffered very little because of the fact that dyslexia happens to be a part of who she is. It does not in any way define her, it has just made her stronger.
Homeschooling has allowed Youngest to grow at her own pace, to not be frustrated by her abilities, and to celebrate who she is.  Homeschooling has also allowed us to keep her going with the things she excels at…Math, Art, History, Science…by reading instructions and books aloud to her and helping her learn without the obstacle of the reading struggle getting in her way.  We have been able to focus intensely on the reading, one-on-one and with a tutor, every day, for as long as she can handle it.  In a school setting, she would have had a very short appointment with a reading teacher a few times a week, she would have spent most of her time lost during much of the day in school, and she would have suffered with the label of “different” or “slow” despite the fact that she is a firecracker of a girl, so smart and so sweet and loving.  
As a homeschooler, rather than having dyslexia be a problem that takes away from her value as a person (not that it ever really does, but it’s seen that way by teachers, students, and others), we have been able to see that dyslexia is a struggle that can be overcome, and can give you something special in the process.  I am convinced that this is true whether your dyslexic child ever really learns to read on grade level or not…there are things you learn in the process that other people miss out on. There are ways to excel even if you don’t do so in the same way that “everyone else” does. Having to work as hard as she has to accomplish what she’s done this year has changed Youngest for the better…and it’s given both of us a profound sense of appreciation and joy for the skills she has fought so hard to learn.  
Is she reading at the level of other kids her age yet?  No.  But I have confidence that she will be before too long.  She is getting very close.  And in the meantime…she’s reading!  And she likes it.  And she’s really proud of how hard she’s worked and how far she’s come in a year’s time.
And you know what? 
I’m proud of her too!

Heat

Time goes slowly in the heat of a fever. The hours limp by in a fog of exhaustion, sticky with sweat and liquid Tylonol.  I count the hours, the long ones that lay stretched out before us on day three of a sick baby.  How to pass the time, when this little one needs only to be held and be held some more?  The fever radiates from his body and in my sleep-thirsty mind I feel I can see the heat around him like a halo, like a mirage.

It has been years since I was here, the rocking and soothing and comforting punctuated by down-time not nearly long enough to knit this ravelling care-sweater.  There are days of mothering that seem to do that, to pull the yarn a stitch at a time just faster than you can knit it back.  Nights that pull you, dream-like, cribside for the hundredth time and wondering when, how you will ever catch up.

I have an agenda in my mind, a list of things to do, of things that I feel are my right.  The right to a night of sleep, to a cup of coffee sipped still-hot and uninterrupted, the right to type a small collection of words in one sitting, the right to take a shower before lunch.  I feel these are needs.  I feel I have earned them. I have come to expect them.

Frustration is what happens when my agenda knocks hard against truth.

The truth is, my agenda is not as urgent as I think it is.  The truth is, it will all wait.  The truth is, this is where we are tested;  in the furnace of a fevered infant, the toddler up all night teething, the sobbing child whose crisis happens five minutes before your important meeting. To raise another human being, we pull pieces of ourselves away; we line this nest with feathers plucked from our own breast and it is this softness that lines the souls of our children, forms a barrier between them and the sharp edges of the world.  This is not martyerdom, nor an exceptional act of great mercy.  This is simply a part of the gift.  There is no embracing the beauty of this without also embracing the pain of it.  It is not the other side of the coin or the price that must be paid for the happy times, it is simply and completely one with love, an integral part of the whole.

And so today I will hold and I will rock.  I will watch the layer of clutter collect on the table and the dishes pile in the sink, I will cancel my plans for this day and surrender to the plans of one mightier than I, one who knows what sacrifice really means, one whose plans are better than my own small agenda.  I will feel the heat of this small body and know that only by submitting to this furnace will I experience the whole refining of something more precious than a few hours of sleep, a clean house, another chapter written or read.  I will remind myself that what I consider urgent will look entirely different in time, because time will pass too quickly through your fingers if you don’t live it…all of it…intentionally and with thanksgiving.

There is value and beauty in this, too:  We sit on the porch  swing, to catch what we can of the summer breeze. I smooth cool water over fevered brow, feel the heat and weight of his small body against my chest.  He sighs shuddery into my shoulder, eyes half closed.  We rock there, embracing the heat of this passing moment.

Gluten Free Dairy Free Raspberry Layer Cake

A special treat for the Fourth of July….Gluten/Dairy free raspberry layer cake!  It’s actually really easy to make, since I used a mix for the cake itself.

I used a cake mix from 123 Gluten Free, which I loved!  You add your own sugar, so you have control over how much and what type of sweetener you add.  It made two nice-sized layers of cake!

Follow the directions on the cake mix, and let the cakes cool.  I put them in the freezer to speed the process along!  When cakes are cool, carefully cut each layer into two layers horizontally.  You can use a long, sharp knife or a piece of thread to do this!

The frosting is a wonderful, light, almost marshmallow-cream texture.  You can use it as a substitute for whipped cream! It is very, very simple and it does not contain dairy or soy.  You just need 2 egg whites, a cup of sugar, a cup of water, vanilla, and a half-teaspoon of cream of tarter.  Combine the water, and sugar in a sauce pan.  Bring the solution to a boil, and boil until it begins to make a syrup. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tarter until they start to froth.  Slowly add the sugar syrup to the eggs, beat until stiff peaks form.

Spread raspberry jam on the cut side of one cut cake layer.  Add a thin layer of frosting on top of the jam.  Place a second cake layer, cut side down, over the first. Repeat the process with the layers of jam and frosting, topping cake with the un-cut side of the cake up.

Frost the top and sides of cake with the frosting.  Decorate with fresh raspberries, a sprig of mint, and a sprinkle of decorating sugar.

For the Fourth of July, you could serve a rectangular slice of this cake with a dollop of frosting in the upper left side of each slice, and a few fresh blue berries on the frosting….little American Flags!