Shannon Ramiro

Recently I had the privilege of interviewing a friend of mine, Karrie Cannell, about her international special needs adoptions. I hope you enjoy her story as well as the insight she has to share with other families who may be thinking of adopting a child with a disability from another country.

 

What led your family to do an international adoption?

One morning I was online and came across a little boy’s picture that was listed for adoption. I had never thought about adoption, we had 8 children, so it wasn’t even on my mind. I kept going back to his picture. He had the same skin condition, epidermolysis bullosa (EB for short) as my stepdaughter. I knew I could care for him. I talked to my husband and we talked to our kids, and we all prayed about it. The next thing we knew, we were knee-deep in adoption paperwork.

About halfway through the adoption process, we found out the boy we were looking to adopt had a biological brother with the same skin condition. They had been separated 3 years before. We immediately decided to adopt both boys. About 7 years later we adopted again, and it happened about the same way. Someone knew we had kids with EB and shared a little girl’s picture with me. At first, I was just advocating for her family to come forward. Little did I know I was going to be her momma.

 

Were there language barriers before, during and after the adoption? How did you navigate them?

We didn’t speak Ukrainian and the boys didn’t speak English. We used Google translate at first, but once they were immersed in the English language they picked it up very fast.

With our daughter, we didn’t use Google translate. She was adopted at a much younger age than the boys. Since she was only 3, we just pointed to things and slowly repeated ourselves, speaking to her in English. She picked up English even quicker than the boys did. Looking back, I can see some frustrations when they couldn’t understand or tell us what their needs were, but we didn’t quit. Honestly, it wasn’t terribly hard.

 

What has been the most enjoyable part of being a foster/adoptive family?

It’s different with each child. The boys have significant delays caused by the lack of care from their biological mother and the orphanage. Getting them home and giving them better care all around is my greatest joy. Seeing them enjoy life and experience things for the first time is also a great joy.

For our daughter, she also lived in an orphanage but doesn’t have the mental delays like the boys. She was very young when she came home, so the transition was easier and she was happier. Her joy is infectious and she loves being in our family.

 

I can see some frustrations when they couldn’t understand or tell us what their needs were, but we didn’t quit.”

 

What was the most challenging part of your international adoption?

The biggest challenge was probably getting the boys the mental help they need. Finding someone who specializes in Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and truly knowing how to help us was our biggest issue, and still is. It’s been a tough road with the boys, a journey I never knew I needed to be on, but I am so blessed to be where I am at with them.

 

What specific learning challenges have you encountered with your foster/adopted child(ren)? What resources have you found the most helpful in these situations? 

Mental health resources have been our biggest challenge. As the boys get older we have found what works for them and what doesn’t. 

 

What advice do you have for families who are thinking about looking into an international adoption?

I wish we were more informed, educated, and better equipped to help the boys with their mental health issues. There needs to be more resources to help families that are struggling. More respite. More knowledge. More information when you feel alone and lost and feel like you have nowhere to turn.

 

 

 


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Ashly Barta

Have you ever felt the longing to add to your family? The thought of adding to your family either by birth, adoption, or fostering can be an important life decision, adding military life into that equation can make it a bit more difficult to navigate.   Military life has its advantages and disadvantages; deployments, frequent moves, financial strain, and little to no family support.

I recently visited with a friend that went through the adoption process while she and her husband were stationed overseas.  Not all adoption agencies are willing to work with couples that are not currently residing in the country so make sure to do your research.  My friends were able to use a social worker local to them in Germany who then worked closely with the adoption agency in the United States to bring about their adoption. 

The adoption process for them was long and hard at times. It consisted of a lot of paperwork and many hoops they had to go through to show they would be good parents.

When I asked my friend what she would want everyone to know about the adoption process, she said, “I would want people to understand that there is a lot of heartache and loss in adoption. The ache of couples just wanting to be a family, the heartbreak of the mother having to make this choice and eventually our little people will have that heartache and loss.” In the end, the gift is so worth it.  Your child is a gift, your love and respect for the birth mother is a gift, and the knowledge gained from the experience is God’s gift.

My friend also spoke to me about the titles they have chosen to use in their adopted family.  We call our guy’s mom, his tummy mommy but as he grows older that may change. She is his mom. She created him and chose to give him life.  We are his mom and dad, we are all he has ever known. So in their house, they have mom, dad, and tummy mom.

Your child is a gift, your love and respect for the birth mother is a gift, and the knowledge gained from the experience is God’s gift.

For those wanting to adopt I would suggest looking into all the possible ways you can adopt before deciding on a specific path. Foster to adopt, infant adopting, as well as international adoptions are each unique and not one is right for every family that feels called to adopt. Learn and understand the processes of each before jumping in. Start saving now if you plan to do an infant or international adoption. Look into grants, hold fundraisers, have yard sales, every little penny helps.

Also, make sure to find an agency that truly cares for the expectant mother’s well being. Understand that it can take tens of thousands of dollars to complete an adoption from beginning to end, and in infant adoption, the expectant mother may choose to parent after you’ve been matched and are attached to the idea of this baby being your child.

My friend ended our conversation by stating, “Do not let PCS dates, fear of moving, or fear of deployments stop you from pursuing adoption and/or foster care.  Just as everything else that comes with military life, don’t put things off until you have a better schedule, better job, better location, just let your heart speak for you.”  I have to agree. One call is from higher up the chain of command and He will always work things out for the best.

 

 

 

 

 


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Cammie Arn

I’m often asked how exactly I do it all. I mean I do have 8 kids, 4 of which are still in my homeschool and 4 who are adults. Parenting doesn’t stop at the diploma, trust me! In addition to homeschooling, I serve on the SPED Homeschool Team, teach a girls small group at church, teach two classes at our weekly co-op, volunteer in the nursery for the local homeschool choir and I work 3 part-time jobs. My husband’s schedule is much the same. I say all this to say that even with all this, I still don’t do it all. No one can. We can only do our best. But there are a few tips for making a large family homeschool run more smoothly.

Tips for Your Large Family Homeschool

 

Large Family Buddy System

This is my biggest secret!
I currently assign two sets of buddies. My children’s ages are 4, 9, 15, and 16, so I usually match my 15-yr-old with my 4-year-old and my 16-year-old boy with the 9-year-old. Currently, my two big kids serve their buddy a meal before serving their own and help with getting clothes out of dressers if the younger child can’t reach.

 

Large Family Laundry

My seasons here have ebbed and flowed as I added babies or sent an older one to work. We have always had 3-4 bedrooms in our home, so I assigned laundry days by the bedroom, leaving sheets and towels for Saturday. The buddy system also comes into play for laundry. The big kids in the bedroom wash and dry or hang out the laundry for the littles. This has greatly cut down on laundry room congestion.

 

Large Family Meal Planning

Planning for meals is crucial. Whenever possible, I cook overnight while I sleep. I generally have several crockpots going at the same time. My last cooking session included pinto beans, potatoes, and spaghetti sauce all cooking at the same time. Then, these meals were packed for lunch or frozen for later. I prep individual ingredients for later use as often as I can, such as, precooked frozen meat, diced pepper, and onions.

My other trick is theme nights. It’s helps the grocery budget too. This is my current routine:

  • Monday Italian
  • Tuesday Sandwich night/Soup and Salad
  • Wednesday Mexican
  • Thursday Breakfast for Dinner/Casserole night
  • Friday Pizza
  • Saturday Chicken/Pork Chops/Roast
  • Sunday leftovers

 

Large Family Homeschool

I schedule the same subjects to be studied across all ages so that I only have to keep up with one lesson plan. The different grade levels come from the depth of the particular assignments, but the content is the same. 

  • My big kids read out-loud to my littles
  • We go to co-op weekly to provide accountability 
  • We take every day as it comes but use scheduled weekly goal sheets for each student
  • I do my very best to not compare my children to each other or other children 

 

Large Family Relationships

Number one rule in our house is to never go to bed angry. I spend a great deal of my time while children are young training them about right from wrong. We do our best to draw any squabble back to the Bible. This includes lots of teaching on forgiveness and the benefit of not holding grudges. We talk about servanthood beginning at home and doing our best to put others needs before our own. Showing kindness, sharing and teamwork is how we roll.

 

The large family homeschool life has its challenges, but with a few simple routines it can run more smoothly. Plus, the rewards of a large family sharing life together make the normal chaos worth every challenge.

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

Holidays are tricky for families dealing with atypical situations, but that doesn’t mean holidays need to magnify these areas of your family life. Follow these DIFFERENT steps to ensure you won’t miss out on a joyful holiday season with your family.

 

D – Develop a plan

No matter how many activities your family would like to do over the holiday season, take a critical look at your schedule, at what is essential and what isn’t. Purposefully blocking in margin around these essentials reduces stress and the pull towards over-booking holiday activities. Then, discuss as a family what traditions or activities matter most to each of you. Finally, match open dates and times in your calendar with these top traditions/activities.

 

Also realize every year will be different and just because you may only be able to schedule in three or four activities this year, this doesn’t mean next year you will have to do the same.

 

I – Individualize acceptance

Holiday activities are often accompanied by vivid memories and biases on how they should be done or enjoyed. But, when you have a family member who has a disability, sickness, or other struggles that require a holiday tradition to be modified it can be difficult to make the necessary adjustments if you can’t be flexible. Yes, your family tradition may take on a new flavor, but that doesn’t mean the new flavor is worse than the original. It is just different.

 

Over time your family member may be able to adjust to the original way you remember enjoying this holiday activity, or over time the modified activity may become more favored by you and your family than the original.

 

F – Focus on strengths

Holiday celebrations and traditions often stretch relationships, sensory thresholds, and much more. Unfortunately, this stretching can cause contention between family members who only see the weakness others possess in comparison to their strengths. On the other hand, these differences in strengths can be beneficial, gifts that complement other family members in need.

 

Especially during this season of giving, it can be helpful to set aside time to discuss individual strengths and weaknesses of each family member, create awareness, and purposefully work towards strengthening each other by better supporting one another.

 

F – Frame togetherness

Just because your family may want to spend more time together creating memories and doing your favorite holiday activities, it may not be realistic to expect everyone to spend all their spare time together doing these activities, especially when considering the needs of the more introverted and medically fragile members of your family.

 

Framing holiday time together with family members who must build rest into their daily schedules should be prioritized by setting aside not only specific days of the week but also the specific times of day for that rest. For instance, if the morning is the best time of day for your child, then booking a matinee for your family to attend the Nutcracker would be better than holding out for an evening performance like you remember enjoying from your childhood.

 

E – Embrace forgiveness

No one is perfect, and yet we often fantasize about having perfect holiday experiences with our imperfect family and less than perfect self. Realistically it is better to aim for ideal and build a larger buffer of forgiveness and understanding into our holiday planning.

 

Sicknesses, miscommunications, forgetfulness, and the general confusion and chaos which happens during the holiday season typically remind us we need to be okay with allowing wiggle room into our “perfect” holiday plans. This way, we don’t ruin our entire experience because we struggle to see beyond the imperfections and to simply enjoy the experiences we have been given to share with our family.

 

“If we desire to make our holiday season the most joyful season of the year, it is imperative to determine how to love others above traditions, events, or seasonal activities”

 

R – Remember to love

The greatest gift we can give any time of the year is to love others the way we would like to be loved ourselves. It’s not about the gifts we work so hard to hunt down and buy. Sometimes the pursuit of the perfect gift ends up sidetracking us from being anything but loving.

 

If we desire to make our holiday season the most joyful season of the year, it is imperative to determine how to love others above traditions, events, or seasonal activities. Many times, this means we have to sacrifice our wants to love, but this is the exact love that Christmas is all about.

 

E – Enjoy the journey

Joy is essentially the bi-product of where we determine our enjoyment or fulfillment will draw from. If our joy rests solely on the product of our day, or even the season, we do not find fulfillment because life’s twists and turns can keep us from reaching these goals on time or how we had imagined them to turn out. But, if we instead seek to rest our joy on the journey towards reaching our goals, we can more readily find joy in our progress as well as in our relationships we might have otherwise overlooked.

 

During the holiday season, focusing on the joy of the journey can require even more intentional concentration as our days, weeks, and even months have checklists for things we don’t normally prioritize in our lives. This is when getting done what the day allows without sacrificing the joyful journey alongside our family members needs to become an even more intentional practice as well as something we intentionally celebrate throughout the season.

 

N – Non-negotiable relationships

Loving others is difficult and the holiday season often brings our lives closer in proximity to relatives we don’t always associate with regularly. And, while it is important to set boundaries with others, proper boundaries always leave room for any relationship to continue to grow if these individuals make positive changes and establish more healthy habits and boundaries.

 

Everything we can do on our end to leave a relationship open, even if we have to mostly close out a family member because of their personal choices or extenuating circumstances, leaves room for that door to widen once again in the future. We can’t always take on the full weight of what another family member is going through or allow the harmful or unsafe choices immediate or extended family members have made into our homes, but we can show there is always room in our hearts to love beyond these extenuating circumstances.

 

T – Take action

 

Finally, it is important to remember to act and put these practices to work. A plan and good intentions will never lead you to where you want to go. Only by stepping out in faith to approach this holiday season differently and move beyond various obstacles that in the past may have held you or your family back from experiencing joy will the season be the most joyful one you could experience.

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

Teaching a child how to hike parallels the larger tasks of homeschooling and parenting.  Hiking, as well as homeschooling and parenting, may have many technical pieces of instruction, but never should we dismiss the greater benefit of the journey itself. There is a greater benefit of the homeschooling journey too, and it has more to do with walking the path with our children each day than how well any of us masters the hiking itself.

 

A Family that Hikes Together

Our family has been hiking since before we had kids. My husband and I both came from hiking families. Plus, within a few days after each of our children were born, as an initiation into the family, we introduced them to hiking.

As an infant, our child would ride in a front-pack when we would take off for a nearby trail.  As each child grew bigger, the transition from facing towards one of us in the front-pack to facing out happened around the second or third month.  Next, the child graduated from our front-pack to a more sturdy hiking backpack.

But we did not leave each child in the backpack stage. Instead, we observed that child’s walking acuity.  We paid particular attention to how well the child mastered uneven terrain and how resilient the child was to the occasional fall.  Our oldest was a natural pack mule on the trail and thankfully so because he was as solid as one too. He became rather difficult to carry early as a toddler, and we were all too happy to let him take that stocky frame and carry it on his own two feet.  But his younger brother was completely different. Our second child had difficulty mastering uneven surfaces. He hated walking on grass and especially when he needed to transition from the grass to another type of surface. Thankfully he was extremely light, and we managed well in the need to carry him much longer than his older brother when we went out on our hiking adventures.

Each child’s readiness considered, we still did not transition right away to multi-mile hikes as soon as each started putting their feet to the trail.  Instead, we had each walk part of the way and ride the other. At first we continued to carry an empty backpack and allowed the child to ride when walking became too difficult or was slowing down the rest of the party, but eventually, we transitioned making our shoulders available for the occasional rest.  

 

Hiking Milestones

Not until each child had built up enough personal stamina did we remove the option to ride.  But, getting our children walking on the path by themselves was only the first milestone in teaching them to hike. In the years to follow, as our family hiking continued, we continued to teach our children lessons on the trail.  

Our children learned how to:

  • Plan wisely and pack enough supplies.  Acknowledging your unique needs and properly preparing to address those needs dependent on the conditions of the trail and the length of the hike is extremely important if you are to get the most out of the trip. Ill-preparation can lead to uncomfortable situations and the potential need to make otherwise unnecessary changes.
  • Be considerate of others. No matter who is on the trail with you or who will follow your path consideration is appreciated.  These lessons involved making room for others who are slower or faster than you are and making sure to “leave no trace” so the hike will be equally appreciated by those who follow.
  • Look out for dangerous conditions. Being observant or taking appropriate action when necessary is essential to hiking safety.  From determining an animal and it’s probable proximity from droppings and prints to knowing when to make noises to warn animals of your approach, when to stand still to avoid getting attacked or trampled, and how to protect yourself if caught in a storm are all invaluable lessons to keeping safe on the trail.
  • Enjoy the journey.  Taking time to look up from the trail to watch the wildlife, smell the flowers, take in a scene, or stand in awe of the magnificent beauty that God alone can create so flawlessly has to be cultivated and encouraged. Looking beyond the trail to be immersed in the experiences is the greatest reward a hiking experience has to offer.
  • Cultivate relationships.  Talking on the trail or even sharing long periods of quiet pondering when walking side-by-side with others strengthens relationships.  Hiking parties naturally bond on the trail and these bonds have strengthened relationships in our immediate family and with extended family and/or friends we have hiked with.
  • Never give up. Hiking can be very tiring especially in high-altitude, dry, and steep conditions.  The determination to finish the trail before you start, unless conditions cause a necessary detour, helps for keeping the course when the trail gets the hardest.

 

Greatest Benefit of the Journey

Why do I share these things with you?  Because over the years as our family has taken countless hiking trips from short half-mile hikes in quaint campgrounds to grueling hikes down into the Grand Canyon and up again, there is a wonderful parallel for how teaching our children to hike has mimicked our 17 years of homeschooling and 22 years of parenting. Little by little we have trained our children not only to hike but also how to hike well, and still at the ages of 22, 20, and 14 they continue to do a lot of “hiking” alongside us as we teach them how to best follow the trail God has set before our children in the way they should go. Thankfully they still desire that we keep hiking with them through the ups and downs of their daily lives which has been the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey.

“Our children still desire that we keep hiking with them through the ups and downs of their daily lives which has been the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey.

Our children at the beginning needed us to help them with everything.  But, teaching them the mechanics of life was only the beginning of teaching them all the knowledge that my husband and I had acquired over the years. In fact, we are still teaching our children as they actively navigate much of their trails now on their own. The same is true for homeschooling and parenting.  We teach our children reading, writing, math, and other life skills, but if we stop walking alongside them once we have taught them these things then we miss out on the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey – the deepening relationship.

 

Path Yet Ahead

My encouragement to you as you look back at your homeschooling and parenting journey so far, and then look forward towards what yet you have to teach, there will always be enough path and time for the lessons that need to be taught as long as you plan wisely and determine to never give up. The key is in teaching the technical lessons that build on mastery and allow time for integration: enjoy the journey, cultivate the relationships, build awareness of potential dangers, and teach your children the importance of the impact God desires to make through them on the world around them.

Thankfully, God provides the trail as well as a continuous stream of supplies. So, as long as we follow His directions every day, we will not get off track or lose our way and our relationships with our children will only grow more strong and beautiful as we walk alongside them on this journey we have the privilege to share.

 

We at SPED Homeschool are so glad you have allowed us to take this journey with you, and we would love for you to share snapshots of what your homeschooling journey looks like.  Feel free to share a picture or story that makes your homeschool unique and beautiful, and let us know if you would allow us to share your story with the SPED Homeschool community.  When we share our stories, we not only gain a greater understanding of one another’s path, but those outside our community will also gain a greater understanding of what homeschooling looks like when a family works to help their child succeed beyond their struggles.

 

 


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By Debbi L. White

Establishing annual family traditions builds security in children. It makes memories but does more than that. It creates a family culture that helps formulate its identity, which is important to our children as they grow into independent individuals. Family traditions help our children know who they are and where they come from.

 


Importance of Family Traditions in my Childhood

When my brother Jimmy and I awoke early on Christmas morning, there were matching pajamas and stockings stuffed with gifts at the foot of our beds. The night before we had been given firm instructions to change into our new pj’s and to quietly go through our stockings until the sun came up. (Those were very slow, grueling hours!) Although the contents of our stockings changed each year, we could always count on finding an orange and a silver dollar in the toe.

 

At the hint of daybreak, we were allowed to awaken our parents. However, we were not to enter the living room or even peek down the hall! While Dad set up the movie camera and lights, Mom combed our hair and made sure we were presentable. When the signal was given, we ran down the hall and began tearing into the piles of gifts!

 

Every summer we vacationed in Ocean City, Maryland for a week. We always stayed at the Hastings Miramar hotel on the boardwalk. Dad would spend the days on the pier fishing, and Mom went to the beach. My brother and I could decide which place we would rather go. After late afternoon baths, we would all go to the hotel dining room and sit at our assigned table for the evening meal. That was always followed by a stroll down the boardwalk for rides, games, and treats.

 

My parents separated when I was 10 and Jimmy was 8. These family traditions are among the cherished memories of my childhood.

 

 

Importance of Family Traditions for My Children
After my husband and I had children, I thought it important to establish our own traditions. I wanted to build structure not only in my daughters’ days but also in their years. I desired that they feel a strong sense of unity as a family, and be able to look forward to various events that we created annually.

 

When our firstborn outgrew the hand-me-down baby clothes that had been given to us, I began making her toddler clothes. This was done as much out of love as it was out of necessity. However, after our second daughter arrived, there was little time to sew, so I became more of a bargain shopper. I didn’t want to totally give up sewing, though, so I continued to make their dresses for Christmas and Easter. Fortunately for me, the girls loved lots of ruffles and ribbons and lace! When they got a little older, they would help pick out the patterns and fabric. It was such fun! That became a tradition that continued into their teens.

 

Being in the ministry, we did not live near any family. Sometimes relatives joined us for the holidays, but if not, we would invite folks from the community – especially for Thanksgiving. My husband had insisted early in our marriage that I make pie crusts from scratch. That was a bitter pill for me to swallow, but it didn’t take long to master the skill. The day before Thanksgiving was spent pie making. Everyone got to suggest their favorite pie, so it was not unusual to make 9-11 pies! The girls helped, of course!

 

There was plenty of pie so we could have some for Thursday breakfast as we tore bread for stuffing, and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. As the table was set, three pieces of candy corn were put on each plate. Every person had to tell at least three things they were thankful for before we began eating. Several years I gave pieces of paper to each family member prior to the meal so that they would have time to reflect on what they were especially thankful for that year. I’ve held on to those papers, and they’ve become precious keepsakes as well as reminders of what transpired in years past and what my daughters prioritized.

 

Certain decorations, music, and movies can be incorporated into annual celebrations. My daughters enjoyed watching Rudolph while decorating the Christmas tree. We always got a real tree, usually on Black Friday. There was a certain order it had to be decorated in, too!

 

Christmas Eve we rode around and looked at the lights, came home and had hot chocolate and opened one gift. The next morning I always had prepared a special Christmas Tree Danish which we ate while reading the Christmas story. (Some years the girls acted it out.) Then we took turns going around opening one gift at a time, first from the stockings, and then from under the tree. A traditional gift was a special ornament for each daughter commemorating something from that year. (I wanted to start a collection of ornaments for them to take with them when they started their own homes.)

 

My parents took my brother and me to Ocean City every year for our annual vacation, and I carried on that tradition with my daughters. Instead of staying at the old hotel on the boardwalk, we established the tradition of staying at the Plaza, a condo that has indoor and outdoor pools. Because we homeschooled, we were able to get discounted rates after Labor Day each year, and the crowds were thinner, too! My daughters are now grown and married and live in different states, but they make it a priority to return to the Plaza every September.

 

Unfortunately, our family was broken when the girls were young, as was mine. But the family traditions continued and gave them security in things that we could keep the same.

 

 

Importance of Family Traditions in Your Family
The possibilities for creating your own family traditions are endless and can range from simplistic to extravagant. If you’ve not yet established holiday traditions, check out Pinterest, or books on the subject. Two books that have been an asset to me in establishing traditions are Gloria Gaither and Shirley Dobson’s Let’s Make a Memory and Thanksgiving A Time to Remember by Barbara Rainey. Ask friends what they do, or just powwow and brainstorm with your family. It’s never too late to start creating memories that will last a lifetime.

 

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By Dyana Robbins

Previous articles I have written have focused on the great blessings that can grow from a special-needs marriage  and how to create an environment for your marriage to thrive. This final article in the series offers some help for marriages poised to fall.

Our marriages endure more pressures and strains as we parent special-needs children or have disabling conditions of our own. We need to look for marital danger signs and interventions to turn our marriages around. The information is drawn from my personal experience and time working as a counselor with families seeking help.


Recognizing the Danger Signs

To launch a rescue of any kind, one must recognize and define the danger. Here are some signs that your marriage is suffering:

  • Effective communication has ceased or is limited to only a few “safe” topics.
  • The marriage has a “business-like” feel to it. You are getting the work done but fun, easy companionship, shared goals, and activities are lacking.
  • You no longer seek one another first for sharing griefs, joys, or events of your day. Your first thought is to contact someone who will better understand you.
  • You are sharing a deeper emotional connection with another person of the opposite sex.
  • Sexual intimacy has waned or stopped. You might be having fantasies of an extra-marital affair or lack sexual desire at all.
  • You cannot imagine a future together.
  • One or both of you has escaped into something else. This might be video games, hobbies, social media, work, or substance abuse. This escape temporarily shields you from the pain of the failing relationship and demands lots of time and attention.
  • You have become polarized into different realms of existence due to disability, emotional avoidance, exhaustion, or revenge.
  • You focus on the children disproportionately because it holds you together. Life revolves around them. This tendency can be particularly strong when a child with a disability is in the home.



That is Us…What Can We Do?

First, I hope that you will believe that your marriage does not have to fail even if you have traveled far down that road. I’ve witnessed marriages turn around from affairs, addiction, alienation, and even abusive patterns.

While this article doesn’t provide counsel for your specific situation, it does provide principles and steps that you can apply to your marriage. Most often, you will need support in making the changes, but you can always start today with what you alone can do. The scope of this article does not specifically address the safety requirements for those in abusive situations, so if you are in that position, please seek help to secure your safety first. Without safety precautions, accountability and a willing partner, applying these principles to an abusive relationship would not be advisable. Now, let’s look at how we can turn things around:


1. Be Honest
One of the first things to go when our marriages struggle is honesty. Honesty with ourselves, our spouse, and those around us who can help decreases. The pain is deep and often humiliating. We hide, rationalize, and minimize the problems so that they seem manageable. Healing requires that we expose the wound and let it be treated.

2. Find the Right People to Help You
This might be friends, ministers, counselors, or other professionals. The right people will have the following characteristics in common: 1) ability to listen and identify problems accurately, 2) ability to speak truth lovingly to both of you, 3) wisdom and experience helping others with marital problems, 4) compassion, and 5) appropriate confidentiality.

3. Seek Help and Support Even if Your Spouse Will Not
I hope I am clear in saying this is not gossiping or complaining about your spouse to people who cannot help heal your marriage (especially your children!). This means seeking help and support from those who will safely listen, counsel, pray, intervene, and support your marriage as appropriate. Many marriages have turned around from one spouse changing their role and contribution to the problems.

4. Seek Healing over Validation
It may well be that one of you has done more damage to your marriage than the other. The desire to be validated as the one who is “right” can be very strong. This desire wars against the things that actually do heal your marriage. Turning your marriage around relies not on assigning appropriate blame, but on identifying problems, their solutions, and offering mutual forgiveness.

5. Humble Yourself
It hurts to hear how you have disappointed your partner. It hurts to speak of how they have hurt you. It hurts to talk of gasping dreams and desires. Pain is inescapable: We have a choice between the fruitful pain that healing requires or the agonizing pain of doing nothing. If we have to feel pain, let it come from laboring towards healing, not in passively letting our marriages fail.

6. Commit to Loving Acts Towards Your Spouse
This does not mean being a doormat. This means showing love in practical ways that matter to your spouse. While this doesn’t fix everything, it does create an environment for hearts to soften and for hope to rekindle.

7. Create and Commit to Regular Time for your Relationship
Special-needs marriages have little free time, but we must create a margin to work on our marriages and prepare to do so for the long haul. We often expect our marriages to heal more quickly than they withered. This is rarely possible. However, with time to implement the above steps, have fun together, and explore new possibilities, your marriage can experience renewal.

8. Put Faith Front and Center
When both spouses are Christians and have a troubled marriage, it is common to hear that they have floundered somewhere in their walk with Christ. This is not always true and we should be careful not to judge without knowledge. That said, it bears earnest consideration when we find our marriages desolate.



The Gifts of Forgiveness, Restoration, and Hope

When we wander from Christ, our marriages are vulnerable. Sin has room to grow. Repentance and forgiveness become strangers to us. Love and charity wane. Before long the burdens and inconveniences of our relationships weigh heavily as we shoulder them alone. Our souls become greenhouses for discontent and strife. We finally look up when our misery has become unbearable and ask “Why?”.

The wonderful promises we have in the gospel apply even here. If we accept grace, repent, and forgive, He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us. Where we have failed; He will be unfailing. Where we can’t love; He will pour His love out over us. Where our hope has died; He can resurrect it.

Our faith in Christ will sustain and comfort us as we labor in a marriage that struggles and isn’t meeting needs. It even gives us the strength to offer what we have received from our spouses as we work towards healing. There is great hope in faith that cannot be seen in our circumstances. Focusing on Christ allows us to see the possibilities for healing and renewal in our marriages.


Reprinted with author’s approval. The original article was published on Dyana’s blog Ambling Grace

 

 


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 Amy Vickrey, MSE 

At first glance, we might seem like a typical American family. My husband is a veteran and we have 2 busy, active boys. However, we have challenges that range from food allergies to special needs and even health issues. Traveling can be tricky. Flying? No thanks, the suitcases aren’t big enough! Here are some ways we have found to make traveling and vacationing a little easier.


Packing Snacks
The first thing we plan for is snacks for the trip and any food products that might not be available where we are headed (I have one child who can only eat 1 brand of waffles and they are from a local grocery chain so we always stock up before a trip). While we might buy some snacks or drinks on the road at places we stop, this ensures that there is safe food for those of us with food allergies on the road.

Having a Space of Our Own
This past October, we traveled to beautiful New Mexico to see family and enjoy the sights. We opted to rent a house for those 4 nights we would be in Las Cruces through Airbnb. This gave us several advantages:

  • We paid a lot less for the large space we had
  • We had a full kitchen and could cook meals to save money and ensure food safety
  • We could keep a regular routine for my son who has Autism

Overall, the ability to have a space of our own and keep our own schedule was wonderful!



Visiting Tourist Spots During the Off-season

While we were there, we took advantage of the fact that most of the other children were in school and visited some cool museums and zoos. There were few crowds which meant my oldest didn’t get so overwhelmed. It was also nice weather so while we had to watch out for too much sun, it wasn’t so hot that we couldn’t enjoy ourselves.The animals at the zoo were active and playing in the cooler weather too.

 

Using Internet Resources
There are many internet resources for finding allergy-friendly places to eat these days. With cell phones, it is easy to check for allergy-friendly restaurants on apps such as Find Me Gluten Free and to check for reviews. There are also chains that are working hard to train their employees nationwide in allergy-safe practices that we follow. However, before I go to a restaurant I am not familiar with, we call and ask questions about what kinds of things are on the menu, the handling practices, etc. 

One way I know a place is training their employees well is when the person who answers the phone (usually a hostess or cashier) can answer my questions confidently or be willing to ask questions when they are not sure. 

I also try to pack a quick snack just in case we have to make a last-minute decision not to eat someplace as I have gotten to a restaurant that passed the phone call only to discover I was misled on the phone. 

Calling Ahead
One really cool thing we did was to attend the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. It was my oldest son’s sixth birthday, so we went all out and bought tickets for one of their breakfast service areas. This was great because it included a shuttle from the parking lot and to the shopping areas (my husband has issues with walking distances). 

When we first started planning, I called and talked to the head caterer to let them know we were coming and to see what accommodations could be made for food. They were great and we were even able to take our own allergy-free brownies in with us to celebrate the event! Also, the quieter, calmer atmosphere that was offered to us allowed my son to enjoy the balloon fiesta without getting overwhelmed.

 

While a lot of planning went into this trip and parts of it were a lot of work, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build family memories. My boys still talk about the balloons and the time with Grandma and their uncle. 

While we hope to do it again, I know the memories we built will last them a lifetime and since NO ONE GOT SICK it was even better!!

 

 


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Dyana Robbins

As much as special-needs parents understand caring for others, cultivating compassion in our children can be difficult. Sometimes, conditions like autism or mental illness make compassion challenging to develop. Other times, children can become self-centered and focused as they grapple with the pain of their struggles.

Here are some practical strategies to develop this vital characteristic in our families:

1. Intentionally point out and discuss the needs of others

Young people may require direct teaching in this area.  When my sons were toddlers, we had a poster with kids displaying various facial expressions.  Each expression had an emotion attached to it.  We rehearsed this almost daily to help them interpret non-verbal cues, but also to cultivate empathy.

When they were a bit older, we began coaching them in social interactions by telling them how their behavior was impacting their friends or likely perceived in the community.  This direct teaching was used for both positive and negative interactions.  In many ways, I acted as a narrator for their lives during this stage; explaining the world around them and how they were operating within it.

As they have grown, we discuss news events, life events in the people around us and their own experiences in ways that point to not only facts but likely emotional responses that co-occur.  This practice has challenged us to perceive likely needs and emotions that we can respond to as we engage with these situations.

2. Travel, Serving, and Giving

Despite the limitations our families experience, there are ways we can help our children see beyond our walls.  Even trips to the library or stores provide a myriad of ways to really see those around us.  If you are able to travel more broadly, cross-cultural experiences will greatly hone your family’s compassion as you experience being “the others” while being immersed in the struggles of other cultures.

Serving others is possible for almost every child.  Finding ways to do this as a family cultivates compassion in each member.  Food banks, Operation Christmas Child, visiting nursing homes and volunteering in our neighborhoods provide ample service opportunities.  Prayer for others’ needs is always possible even when we are homebound.

Our family’s favorite service place, besides church, has been a local ministry to the homeless called the Mercy Tree.  This wonderful ministry provides lunch in a local church, devotions, laundry service, showers and transportation to those without homes.  As we cook for our friends and eat together, we understand more of a world we have never experienced and our ability to love in those places broadens.

 

 

3. Share great stories!

Powerful stories that transcend their time always include adversity that their characters overcome.  We can link the characters’ struggles to relevant experiences in our lives or those of others.  This helps us not only understand pain, but what is required to face and overcome the type of struggle depicted.  These stories are blueprints to guide us in helping others.

4. Practice gratitude and compassion at home

  • Tell your spouse frequently what you love and appreciate about him/her in front of your children
  • Around the dinner table, have each family member share thankfulness about the person next to them
  • Keep a thankfulness list in a central location and encourage everyone to contribute
  • Each month, assign one family member to select a person or family to serve in some way
  • Invite others into your home
  • Love each other well
  • Find penpals from other countries and exchange letters

 

I hope that some of these strategies encouraged you to find new ways to encourage compassion in your family.  Besides the joy it will bring your children, fostering compassion expands their relationships and equips them to better relate to their communities.

 

 

 


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This article was reposted from www.amblinggrace.com with permission from the author.

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