Sunday, July 10, 2016

Hello, world!

The Ostrander family has been taking a break from life for a while, and that is the reason I haven't posted for over two months.  Frankly, finishing up the last of the school year, planning ahead for next year, and enjoying the beginning of summer have taken up all our time!  You busy parents know exactly what I mean…..

For our family, wrapping up the school year means panicking about grades, typing out research papers (at the last minute), and trying to find enough school clothes that still fit to make one complete uniform per child---which they will then wear for the last month straight!  Why is that children have two major growth spurts each year:  one right after you bought school clothes for the new year and one about a month before school ends?  It's as if they do it on purpose…..

Then, there's the all-important, academically-mandatory, pull-your-hair-out research paper in high school.  You know, the one where the student doesn't do any research except for finding two internet articles; writes two-page, double-spaced drafts, thinking that is more than enough material for an eight hundred-word essay; "forgets" when the deadlines (which are posted beside the classroom door) are; and puts off typing out the actual paper until the night before the final project is due.  Technically, I only had one child at home who needed to do a research paper this year; however, multiply that stress by about fifty, since I am the new high school English teacher.  I get to push and remind and beg and plead to get those projects in---and then I get to grade them.  No wonder I needed a mental vacation!

The "planning ahead" part was focused mostly on Dale and figuring out to a "T" exactly what he needed to take for summer school and next school year in order to graduate with his class.  Just the fact that he is alive is a miracle; add to that all the hard work he, his therapists, and his teachers have had to put in to get him this far, and the miracle swells to the point of taking over all emotion and sensible thought.  Our God not only brought Dale back to life that day almost five years ago, but He has also given Dale hope for the future.  It's still not clear what Dale will be able to do after graduation, but he's alive to do it.  We're looking into college courses he can do online as well as adult therapy programs he might qualify for.  Our focus right now is helping him finish his 11th grade English PACES; then he gets to take an actual break from school work until the fall.

Each year, when planning ahead for the next, I tell Dale, "I hope this next year won't be too hard or too busy for you."  Each year, reality has fallen way short of our hopes and expectations.  Dale basically missed his 7th grade year (he was doing speech, occupational, and physical therapy).  He was able to sit in on his 8th grade classes, but he couldn't absorb much or take notes or perform well on tests.  At the start of his 9th grade year, we put him in traditional classes but also began having him do PACEs; this was an excellent idea since it allowed him to work at his own, new, slow-but-steady pace.  The only drawback was that it took Dale out of regular classes which meant he had less time to socialize with his friends.  His accident and subsequent difficulties had already put a bit of a gap between him and his classmates, and not being in class with them widened that gap.  Dale's 10th and 11th grade years were his hardest.  He (and his teachers!) worked so hard to catch up on missed credits, switching to PACEs almost fully in order to give Dale his best chance possible.  If there were a percentage grade given for effort, Dale would have scored a 100%.  Dale needs to take Bible, English, Government and Economics, Health (1 semester), Yearbook (1 semester), and Business Math next year.  He has finally reached his senior year!!!

Being in the high school this past year has afforded me the chance to see how the students interact with Dale.  My girls have always given good reports, but this mama bear is always worried that someone will make fun of Dale's condition or consider helping him to the next class to be a burden.  It's been such a blessing to watch the guys consistently offer to walk Dale over to the Learning Center for PACE class or across the gym to choir or Spanish.  The girls have pitched in as well, carrying Dale's backpack to his next class---and his backpack is no featherweight item!  I try to tell the teens just how much seeing their casual, accepting, "this is normal," Christ-like attitude towards Dale means to me, but I can never get out more than three words without tears coming to my eyes.  Even now, at my computer, my vision is blurred, thinking about each one of their loving kindnesses for my son.  And to observe Dale's class with him; they treat him as one of them, as if there is no difference between him and them.  I guess I thought they would treat Dale distantly---you know, acting like they wished he weren't part of their world or wasn't on the same plane with them.  But I've never seen that at all.  His senior classmates have included Dale just as much as possible in their conversations and activities and always seem to look for ways to make him feel a part of the group.  Such precious young people! 

Looking ahead for each of my girls for school is a far easier matter.  I just look to see what books I may already have from past years and check off those items on the book order form.  Boom!  Done.  Trust me, I've put enough blood, sweat, and tears into Dale's curriculum to have earned some relief when it comes to everybody else's.

Now we are in the serious business of summer break.  Those of you who know me know that I take relaxing seriously.  I mean, why have a break from the insanity and pressure of school if all you're going to do is go crazy cleaning, organizing, or sightseeing?  Am I right?  So far our summer vacation has been comprised of sleeping in, getting caught up on favorite TV series, occasional laundry, meals whenever, and staying up half the night.  Perfection!

I'm only half kidding.  We've been a few places and done a few things.  Chad drove us out to the outlet stores at North Bend with a side trip to Snoqualmie Falls.  There is the most fascinating collection of antique train engines there!  Two of the girls swapped bedrooms which required endless trips up and down the stairs with armfuls of whatever.  While cleaning out her room for the move, Ashley decided to bequeath to Emily a lot of her old clothes; this has given Emily a new, more mature wardrobe (sniff, sniff).  This has also given Ashley reason to demand more clothes! Emily turned ten years old in June which meant she got to have a real birthday party with friends and cake and presents and craziness.  All of our children are in double digits now.  I feel old….

We didn't do much for Independence Day, and by "much" I mean "nothing at all."  Chad had to work Sunday night-Monday morning; he got home Monday afternoon, just in time to grill some hamburgers, eat, and go to bed because he had to work Monday night-Tuesday morning as well.  We don't usually buy firecrackers ourselves, preferring to let our neighboring communities display their fireworks for our enjoyment!  Plus, Emily has always been terrified of the loud noises and flashes.  This year, for the first time, she managed to go the whole night of the Fourth (plus the extra days on either side) without crying.  She was still unsettled by the noise but was able to distract herself with drawing and TV.

I know this post has been long, but it serves to show that life continues as it always has for us:  steady, busy, happy, crazy.  When I say that we took a break, it wasn't from life itself; we still attended every service, still worked our bus route, still helped out with various functions, still played---we simply chose not to put any new thing on our plates for a while.  This kind of break is important for any family, and we intend to take full advantage of this opportunity to slow down for a bit.  Goodness knows, in just about six weeks, school gears will need to start grinding again!

God bless you all for your love, prayers, and support.  Take time to hug your children and deliberately plan some unstructured family time to just enjoy being together.

Isaiah 12: 2-4  "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid:  for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation.  Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.  And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon His name, declare His doings among the people, make mention that His name is exalted."