Author Archives: texasnorth

About texasnorth

TexasNorth is a little farm in Western Michigan. It's home to 5 chickens, 25 longhorn cattle, a coonhound (Banjo), 1 barn cat, a husband, and 3 ridiculously funny children. The mom of this zoo has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt and roast marshmallows after dark.

tiny kingdoms

What do you think your gifts are? Your spiritual gifts? she asked with a broad smile. How are you specially equipped to further the Kingdom? Fill out these forms and we’ll help you find your place, your comfort zone.

I look at her and wonder if my skills can even be measured. If there is a chart for my particular brand of talents.

Every day I am out of my comfort zone.

My place is here.

I am building tiny kingdoms.

Dressing little bodies.

Monitoring little bodies dressing themselves.

Protecting little bodies who undress themselves.

I am the chief Completor of Forms. The holder of medical records. The one with the key to the birth certificates.

I am the builder of bridges, ramps, garages, and rockets. I make houses and barns and tents. I divide supplies equally over tyrannical consumers, and I supervise the demolition of a day’s hard work.

I dress American Girl dolls with speed and efficiency.

I am the monitor of snacks and the keeper of sugar. I pour the milk that is too full for little hands. I open the Ft. Knox wrappers of granola bars and cheese sticks and juice box straws.

I remember where I last saw the beloved bear or baby. I know all the secret hiding places for the one missing shoe. Why is it always the same one?

I am the only one who can be trusted to buckle and unbuckle bicycle helmets.

My kiss magically heals wounds and quiets tears.

I am a master of fitting thumbs into mittens, tiny toes into boots, and hats on frantically moving heads.

I know who wants honey on a bagel, nutella on a sandwich, and jelly-no-peanut-butter on half a slice folded over. I know these things.

These… THESE are my spiritual gifts.

leaf

My gifts don’t transfer especially well to the Real World, but they hold my little people- my tiny kingdoms- together.

Is it not spiritual to be able to decipher a cry for help from a scream for joy? Am I not equipped for battle with grace and laughter and discipline… and more than a few tears along the way?

I am not always a grateful bearer of Truth, a kind giver of gifts, a silent hand of encouragement. I am usually looking for instead of handing out. I am simply not ready to be more things to people beyond my own gates. The tiny kingdoms are still stretching my time and my talents.

Someday, I will graduate or expand to sharpening the more traditional spiritual gifts, and I will be useful in different ways. But for now,

Every day, I am out of my comfort zone.

And yet, my place is here.

Building tiny kingdoms.

And to you, too crazy to make a meal from scratch right now, too overwhelmed to take a walk at night, too behind on laundry to fold AND put away… too tired to write blogs, too unscheduled to bring a meal to an acquaintance, too walking-a-fine-line to reach out- to you: You are not alone. Do the next thing. Just, the very next thing. That’s all you have to do. Eventually, you will be given more. More time, more sleep, more capacity. But for now, just do the next thing in your tiny kingdom. It is enough.


all the things

• I’m re-reading Home to Woefield, by Susan Juby, right now. It was funny the first time, but not as funny as it is now. I don’t know if it’s having a few more farming years under my belt or simply reading a little slower these days, but that book makes me laugh so hard I cry. I just absolutely love it.

• I currently cannot lift my right arm up over my head. This has been going on – off and on – for a couple months now. I hope it’s due to my new habit of running so that I can officially quit. Although, that would also take me out of the running for a walk-on SWAT team membership, and I don’t know if I’m ready to give up on that dream quite yet.

• Yesterday, I walked out to the mailbox to put a check in for Monday’s mail. I was feeling good- it’s taken me over a month to write this check, get it in an envelope, and get it to the end of the driveway… but I was making it happen. CHECK. All was well until I turned around to head back and came face-to-buns with my middle child (known as GIDEON JAMES) standing atop a 5-ft. hay bale, “watering” the front lawn for all to see. But(t) still, the check is literally in the mail. I claim victory.

• As the recommendation of both my husband and a dear friend, I have just completed filling out paperwork to be tested for ADHD. Working through the many facets of learning and emotion with Ry have taught me that there are MANY sides to ADHD… and I’m thinking this road may have a few answers for me. I just assumed it meant you couldn’t sit still… and, lawd knows, I have no problem sitting still. My brain, on the other hand… hmmmm. I will say that filling out the questionnaire was humbling and annoying. This has been an intense year of self-discovery. I’m not afraid to open up a new chapter. Let’s get it all out there. Just take me out for ice cream afterwards.

• My children will not stop eating THESE. I call them Power Balls. Gideon repeatedly asks for RESCUE BALLS. I don’t correct him. This is reminding me to add more honey to the grocery list.

• I am a complete and total paper nerd. School supplies, journals, planners, rulers, SPECIAL PENS… these are my love language. I’ve been out of practice for a long time. It’s time to get my fingers working again. I did look long and hard at the Erin Condren cult of organization and there are a million things I like about it. Love the personalization options. Love the motivation factor of a pretty thing. But, I was afraid to spend the cash and then not use it to the max. And, while my goal is organization, I don’t want it to become another job I don’t do well around here. I went with an XL version of my trusty Moleskine book (HERE). It has the months and weeks already sectioned off and then… that’s it. I can color-code and list and sketch and washi-tape to my hearts desire. Simple, but effective. We shall see. I have a couple of months to get ready. P.S. LOVE this bullet-journal explanation by Randall Carroll HERE. Anything map or symbol or list re-lated makes my heart go pitter-patter.

• Speaking of planners, I’m still working out my meal planning muscles. I’ve spent a good chunk of time tracking down all my scraps of paper and family favorites and go-to internet recipes to get them all in one place, in one file on my computer. My goal is simply to print out these 40 or so recipes and have them in a binder I can refer to easily for grocery lists and meal-making. Right now, I power up the phone or computer to search for things each day and end up wasting time in inappropriate places… like sundancecatalog.com. Seriously. I need PAPER. HOWEVER. In my organzing/planner search, I came across this Plan To Eat system: it costs $40 per year and allows you to drag and drop recipes into a calendar, make grocery lists, and save recipes. It’s accessible from your computer and your phone. Does anyone out there use this? I am totally intrigued.

• So, we’ve talked about how I’m not a runner. I’m not, but I’m making it happen. ALSO, I joined the good, old-fashioned Y. As in, to the MCA. Curt and a friend have committed to working out at least once a week… and the wives wanted in on some of that “rest but work” time… so we’re all in. Right now, that looks like me taking Abby and Gideon to the gym twice a week for 2 hours. Gideon and Abby play in a room with a rock climbing wall and I go do yoga or pilates. Sometimes I fall down in yoga. But, hey. Sometimes, the old man behind me walks in, unrolls his mat, tightens his hoody over his face, and then sleeps for an hour, SO I AM WINNING. Membership was worth it simply to get Abby’s photo taken.

Every day, I laugh.

abbyYMCA

• Today is school picture day. I had to bribe Gideon not to wear his astronaut costume and convince Rylie that washing her hair was essential.

That is all, and that is enough.

Wait.

What are you making for dinner tonight?


Hot Wheels for Rylie wrap-up

And now, the final chapter in the Hot Wheels for Rylie adventure (though, I am sure there will be a few epilogues along the way).

terratrikeOver Labor Day weekend, we were able to rent a TerraTrike from the home base here in Grand Rapids. These trikes were not originally on my radar since they are all recumbents, but they have an incredible bike and their rental program made it possible for us to test. Nothing to lose. The TerraTrike is incredibly light-weight (40-50 pounds as opposed to the 60 and 70+ pound upright trikes we were looking at) and fully adjustable, so it would fit her for the rest of her life. It looks different and it’s low to the ground, but it’s incredibly easy to handle and very safe. Rylie was able to sit in it and immediately pedal, brake, and steer. It fit in the back of the minivan with half a backseat down, which was super convenient.

But it was too much. Cost-wise, it would take everything we’d made in the fundraiser… but, more than that– it was just too much for Rylie. It was too fast. Too light. Too different. She was overwhelmed.

Thank goodness for rentals.

Curt put in lots of phone calls and emails to the trike conversion options, but couldn’t get anyone to answer.  The conversion is simply a 2-wheel attachment that fixes onto the rear axle of a bike. We liked this idea because it would have kept the overall weight down (important when your rider is barely breaking 50 pounds), and she’d still have a 2-wheeler when she was ready to switch back. The bike would have to be a single-speed, hand-brake option… or fabricated to be such (which was possible- our local bike shops were so pumped to help us), but Ry’s in-between bike sizes (crazy long legs!) and that brought up a lot of questions. Questions you need to ask and be sure about before you lay down serious cash and plan for shipping. It’s hard to spend such big money on a specialty item without talking in-depth with an actual person, and ultimately, it wasn’t a risk we were willing to take.

Which left us with the good, old-fashioned, upright trike option. Ah,but… junior size? Foldable? Adult size and she can grow into it? Lawd.

In the end, I opted for a light-weight (50 pounds), adult-sized (24”) trike made by Sun Trike. Ry is right in the middle of the the scale for junior vs. adult frame and wheel size. Since she will do nothing but grow, I went bigger. And, that’s how we ended up with a mint green, 3-speed trike with a beautiful, white basket in our driveway a couple weeks ago. The bells and streamers are coming, but, y’all…

We did it.

suntrike

And here’s the thing:

Ry loves it.

[Ry opening it.]

[Ry riding it.]

She talks about it and writes stories about it and draws pictures of it… and she sits on it and pedals it around our little circle driveway. But, for the moment… it’s still a little bit too much. I wanted fireworks and happy tears and riding until after dark. I wanted immediate life-changing freedom for a girl who’s been slowed down by her body all her life. And she’s 7 and she’s still a little overwhelmed. It’s still a little too much for her.

As I watched her roll (not ride) her new trike into the barn for the evening (again) and take her treasures out of the basket that it hit me:

The trike was a gift. 

Which means, it’s not mine.

It’s hers.

It’s not a gift if I check up on it.

It’s not a gift if I dictate how it’s used.

It’s not a give if I measure and chart enjoyment.

If not a gift if I don’t take my hands and my expectations off of it.

It may, in fact, take her longer than I expected to be comfortable pedaling on a public path towards the ice cream shoppe, but it’s hers and she loves it. She loves it exactly the way she’s supposed to. Allowed to. Blessed to.

So, I’m letting it go.

Good thing to remember in a few other areas of my life.

Do my research.

Make the call.

Give my time or talent.

And then walk away.

To all of you who cheer for Rylie every day and who graciously gave your money and advice on this project, THANK YOU. I cannot say it enough: THANK YOU. What a gift you are to me. An on-going, inspiring, 110% gift.

Hot Wheels: part 1

Hot Wheels: part 2

Rylie’s Go Fund Me page


sun-seekers

sunflower

There was not much room.

There never is, when 3 adults are squished across the bench seat of an S-10 pick-up truck, but he and a friend needed a ride to the airport and I volunteered.

He had spent the last month of his summer at the camp where I worked, serving junior high kids by picking up their trash, painting fences in the California heat, and fixing broken things. Not glorious by anyone’s standards, but he volunteered.

Did you have a good month? I asked.

I did, he answered indifferently. It was something to do.

But not magical, your saying?

No. Not magical.

What will you do when you get home?

Take out the trash, paint my mom’s fence, fix broken things. You know, whatever needs done.

Ah. So, this was a lot like regular life for you?

I guess.

No literal Come To Jesus Moment in your small group or quiet times?

Not really.

No new, life-long friends?

Nah. 

No camp romance?

Hell no.

I grinned. He was not like 99% of the students that spent their summer with us. Not inside, not outside. But, he was honest. 

I did like the plants, though. 

What do you mean?

I like how here in California the plants look for the sun. That doesn’t happen where I’m from.

I don’t follow.

Well, we’d be up early, you know? Before everyone else. And we’d empty the trash cans and throw the bags on the truck before breakfast, usually still in the dark. I was always picking wrappers out of the hillside by the kitchen where people would throw their candy wrappers down or miss the can… and they’d land in the weeds and flowers that climb the back hill. In the dark, the flowers were closed. Still. Waiting. Resting. Staying out of trouble.

By the time breakfast started, the sun would peek out over the valley, and the flowers would start to slowly open and look up, You live here. Ever noticed that?

I can’t say that I have. I’m at work by then, inside.

Yeah. I hear you. It’s super weird. The flowers- they were, like, waiting to come alive. Saving energy until the sun came out each day. And then, when it did, they all opened up and faced straight up- soaking up as much as they could. I dunno. It was cool. They seek the sun.

It was the most I’d ever heard him speak, and, admittedly, more insight than I had bargained for from such a tough kid. 

So, what do you think about those sun-seekers?

I think they’re on to something. It’s hard to grow in the dark, you know? Don’t waste your energy. Wait for the sun. I guess I never thought about it before. 

He shrugged, and I exited for the airport.

I wonder where he is now. I wonder if he ever found the Light. I wonder if he could ever possibly realize how often I’ve thought about that 5-minute conversation in the past 12 years.

Maybe we didn’t change his life.

Maybe he changed mine.

It’s hard to grow in the dark.

Wait for the sun.

When it appears- and, it always appears,- soak in as much as possible.

When it’s dark, rest.

Rest and wait.

God bless the 1% that blur the lines between lost and found, little red trucks that haul the Gospel around, and errands that deliver you into the sun.


running away

shoes

Every other day since May of this year, I have laced up some shoes and pounded 2 miles out of my dirt road.

I have 2 pair of running tights… and they are that: tight. It’s not pretty.

After a couple months, I bought some real running shoes… lighter and simpler than the cute ones I’ve always worn with jeans. I bought socks that don’t have stripes and don’t come up to my knees.

Before you get all Yay Yahoo It’ll change your Life Anyone Can Do It One Step In Front of the Other It’s Where I Do My Best Thinking on me, let me say this:

I hate it.

I sure do hate running.

I do not feel awesome when I am running.

I cannot talk when I’m running, much less solve the world’s problems.

I don’t finish on a high with rosy cheeks and happy muscles.

My body has not changed and is not super thrilled with me.

I am not a runner’s runner.

So, why do it?

Because for 20 years, I have assumed that I could not. True: I ran track my freshman year in high school… sprints and certainly nothing over 400m in practice. True: I was a Kinesiology (that’s P.E., in layman’s terms) major in college and suffered through every agility and physical requirement that came my way. I survived both simply because I did not like my alternative options.

For 20 years, running has been the thing I cannot do, that I could not be great at, that I wouldn’t learn.

When given the choice, I choose less. Less complicated, less hard, less risk.

When a friend asked me to join them on a 5k in May, I laughed and agreed- signing up before I could come up with an excuse to bail. I signed up Curt, too, just for good measure. And ever since that weekend, I have kept going.

It’s not awesome. I have no illusions or desires of personal bests and sleek silhouettes. I just wanted to change my mind, and 30 minutes every other day was the simplest way to do it. No equipment. No membership. No kids. No cds. No diet. Just… run.

I wanted to quiet the voice. That voice that whispers, “Yeah, well… you can’t do that. AND, you don’t have to. Running means racing and winning… you can’t do that. Running means walking out of your house in awkward clothing… you can’t do that. Running means having familiar cars pass you… you can’t do that. Running is physically uncomfortable and public and hard.”

Actually, I can do that. 

I can’t do it well, which always stopped me before, but I CAN DO IT.

I am learning, slowly, that God is not as impressed with results as He is with effort. I have taught this to students, prayed this with my children, and written this to lost hearts… but I have never personally accepted it.

He is not as impressed with your results, Katie, as He is with your effort.

Just try. 

Don’t talk yourself out of it. Don’t wait for perfection. Don’s assume everyone else out there is loving their race.

Just try. Stop when you have to, stretch at the end, and check it off the list.

It counts. 


Gideon goes to school

Gideon James,

You are 45 pounds and 4 years of awesome. Independent, loud, cuddly, freakishly coordinated awesome.

For weeks, you asked daily… multiple times daily… when we were going to Colorado. Colla-Waddo. If it wasn’t Codda-Wado, it was camping. When we were camping or in Codda-Wado, you wanted to know what we were doing next. Last night, with a mouth full of toothpaste, you told me again you wanted to go home.

You ARE home, Love.

Oh. I mean Texy. I want to go to Texy and DRIVE. MINES. TRACTOR.

Buddy. 

You have always wanted to be where you are not. On to the next thing. Over the next hill. Fast as you can. Nothing to ninety in less than a minute.

And now it is time for school.

Just a little bit of school.

Thursday1

Three times a week for a couple hours each day you will jump into science and painting and Bible stories and new books and field trips and fire alarms. You are going to love school, Gideon James. They have endless art paper and a jungle gym and A BUS! They have kids your age and PLANNED ACTIVITES, son. They are ready and waiting for you.

You told everyone you know, and a few bank tellers and nurses you didn’t, that you would be riding a bus to Rylie’s school this year. All true. You have a backpack and new superhero shirts. You will only wear baseball (read: slippery) shorts, but we’ll deal with winter later. When asked what you were most looking forward to, you answered, “Snack time. AND the water fountain.”

You ask the absolute best questions. I am so excited for you to begin learning things that haven’t even occurred to you yet.

What am I hoping you’ll learn at school? 

vocal restraint at appropriate times 

bathroom etiquette 

to wait for others  

home is safe 

your parents do not know everything

it’s ok to grow big

non-moshing dance moves

actions have consequences

mom will always be waiting for you 

Thursday2

I will never, ever forget seeing you walk in a line returning from recess yesterday. All the parents were milling around the classroom door, waiting anxiously for their Littles to come back from their first day.

You didn’t see me sitting there on the floor with Abby. You were so calm… serious, even?… and CUTE there towards the back. I couldn’t help but whisper-yell, “Gid! Hey, Bud!” And you heard me and you spun around and you found me and you ran and tackled me without a word. Then, as quick as you came, you ran back to your place in line, entered your classroom, and wrapped up your day.

That 30 seconds kind of made my life. 

I got to see you before you saw me…

and you were just fine.

You would have been just fine had you not seen me until the official dismissal. But, you were fine AND you were thrilled to see me. I could not ask for anything more.

I’m your biggest fan, Gus Man.

Your absolute, biggest fan.

Love,

Mom


2nd grade (part 2)

I have always been a letter-writer.  It’s how I process. While I realize this letter is directed at a specific person in our lives, I think it’s important for me to say things publicly… both easy and hard. It is an act of accountability on my part, not an attempt to teach parenting or relationship etiquette or special-needs love. For me, it’s just talking, out loud. Parenting, out loud. Living, out loud. Without writing, out loud, I tend to hide.

2nd

Dear teacher,

Welcome to Team Rylie! I know you have 20 other hearts to teach and love and guide this year, but there is one that is most special to me. I thought some extra insight in Ry’s life might help you understand the importance of what you do every day for our family.

You are my eyes, my ears, hands, feet, and heart at school. Don’t ever hesitate to tell me anything. Every tiny piece of information you give me helps color in a blank picture of life for Rylie outside this farm. Keep some secrets for yourself… some private jokes between you and my girl. I won’t be jealous of that bond. I want Ry to meet and know women who are trustworthy, funny, smart, and kind. I have tried for almost 8 years to open the gates to her village. Just know that anything you share is gold to me.

While I’m writing this, Rylie is in her room. She’s crying. This is actually really normal for us… which doesn’t make it awesome… just normal. She’s not mad. She’s just exhausted. All fifty pounds of her has given everything it has to walk, talk, and learn in the last eight hours in 2nd grade, and there’s simply nothing left.

I don’t want you to feel bad about that. I just want you to see- to hear, because she can’t physically tell you- that she’s giving you everything she’s got. All her laughs, all her balance, all her energy. She’s using it. She’s not holding anything back. She’s not saving it for later. School is the highlight and majority of her life right now, and I want all of her best THERE.

It will get better at home. As the schedule sets in, as the routine surfaces, as the dust literally settles, her little body will get stronger.

Let me give you some hints for our Rylie Girl.

(and let me remind myself)

She loves a job. Give her a job any job, and she’s money. She’s serving, she’s productive, she’s busy, and she’s happy. She thrives on being needed, being helpful. You want to re-focus her? Give her a job. You want to motivate her? Give her a job. You want to calm her down? Give her a job.

She gets hungry. Her body is burning calories just staying upright. Like, ACTUALLY staying upright. Her vestibular system is in overdrive 24-hours a day. Balancing emotions, academics, and friendships is all extra. She may need an extra Clif bar or banana here and there (and there and there) to keep her body working for her instead of against her.

The girl is always telling a story. In the absence of words, she uses her body to show love, joy, frustration, excitement, boredom, hunger, and humor AND she does it within 2 inches of the person next to her. This makes her hands sometimes deadly but always telling. I know (OH MY WORD I KNOW) this can be a difficult thing to navigate, especially when you have other hearts to consider. I know. Remind yourself and others (and me, please) that she’s doing the best she can with what she has at the moment. When she’s shown more, she’ll learn more. When she learns more, she’ll give more.

She dresses herself. I take no credit or blame.

Rylie loves to write. Take notes. Make lists. Copy signs. She saves paper, scraps, paper scraps, and anything that might be able to be paper or a scrap later in life. Writing and paper and pencils are freedom for her.

Sometimes, in spite of 12 hours of sleep, a full breakfast, and everything else right in the world… it will just be a bad day. Fierce hugs, a new pencil, and a lot of grace are the ticket here. Also, maybe a dance party. That girl can dance.

She will learn math and reading, Bible and science in your class. She will also learn how to ask questions, to say ‘I’ instead of ‘me,’ and to let others go first. She will practice manners and grace, music and conflict resolution. She will navigate being the favorite and being left out. Ultimately, these life skills and experiences are more valuable to me than any test score or IEP goal. Teach her to love and be loved. The rest is bonus.

I know that it will be both a joy and a challenge to teach Rylie this year. You will say that’s true of every student, but I know. She trusts you. She believes you. She covets your wardrobe.

And so do I.

All of it.

I am so glad we’re on the same team. You are a FORCE, and you were made for this.

Thank you for what you do.

Love,

Rylie’s mom


2nd grade

2nd grade

Child,

You are 7 and on your way to the first day of 2nd grade. You are 50 pounds and 50 inches of effort. You picked out your own clothes, brushed your own teeth, and packed your own bag before I rolled out of bed. You expect nothing but good things.

This years brings some pretty big changes. Your one helper in class will now be three. Math is in the afternoon, which means we need to keep you awake and motivated longer. Math, in general, is a cruel joke to both you and me. We will work through it together. Some familiar faces will be missing in the hallways, but the structure you crave is still there. The support you rely on is still there. The heart we give thanks for is still there.

Today is only good. 

Remember our rules: keep your hands to yourself, keep your clothes on, be a good friend, wear your shoes at recess, and ask for help when you need it. Give people space to breathe. Check your work twice. Sit with friends who are sad. Clap with friends who are happy. Say thank you as often as possible. And remember that I will always, always come and get you at the end of the day.

Have a great day, Love.

See you soon,

Mom

 

 


Hot Wheels for Rylie

thank you card

Well, last Monday pretty much knocked it out of the park, Folks. Donations continue to come in and we are overwhelmed.

We raised above and beyond what I requested… which brings up a million questions for this girl who can process the life out of anything. ANYTHING.

Things that have been said out-loud over the past week: Do we let Ry pick out anything she wants? Do we give her limited options so the choice is somewhat practical? Let her pick anything! Be responsible! What to do with the extra after all is said and done? Open a savings account for Ry’s future fun/special needs? Save it only for future bikes for Ry? Give part of it away? But folks gave to RYLIE, so maybe we shouldn’t give part of it away. Folks gave to Ry’s BIKE fund, so we should only use it to buy a BIKE for Ry- now or later. We can use this money for anything for RYLIE. We can use this money for ANYTHING. Let’s go to Chicago! Folks gave to our family and trust us to do the right and fun and good thing. They entrusted me with the money, so I’m responsible for the money… but they trust ME, too, so CRAP.

You laugh, but it’s all true. There’s a sweet, kind, crazy responsibility in receiving a gift of this magnitude. Of sharing an experience and guiding the ship.

Thank goodness I’m usually only responsible for deciding what’s for dinner.

Curt was excited that this project gave his Inner Spreadsheet Geek the chance to do some serious research. Lawd, y’all. The research. I was all set to click BUY, throwing confetti and ordering the rainbow bell option with extra streamers, and he’s all like, “well… have you seen blah blah blah?” I do love this man and he is remarkable. I love him the most of anyone, really. BUT HE IS SO DARN LOGICAL AND THOROUGH.

Actually, I think what I said last night after anther hour of extended web-searching was, “I think we’re making this too hard. You’re making this too hard. You’re looking at way too many websites. I have seven tabs open right now. This is nuts.” and he said, “I can look at as many websites as I want.” and I said, “She wants a basket- THAT’S ALL SHE WANTS.” and he said, “You’re right. Have you seen these baskets?” And then I died.

All this to say, we haven’t made a decision yet, but we will. By tonight. I say so.

We realized quickly that there are 2 major options:

1. Buy a trike. (But what size? She needs a 20″ wheel right now but is right on the edge of switching to a 24″. She could ride a 24″ wheel for longer… but do we buy for now or for later? Maybe she won’t NEED a trike later?)

2. Buy a bike AND a trike conversion kit. (This allows any bike to be transformed into a trike. More expensive, but you kind of get 2 for 1. This is a bit harder than it seems, though. Ry is right in-between bike sizes, as mentioned above. There are also basically zero 24″, single-speed bikes with a front brake. BUT, we could pay for modification and our local bike shops are super excited to help. Hmmm.)

Putting all that web-research to good use (and clearing my brain a little), I offer you this abbreviated list. For anyone out there looking for some bike/trike options for kiddos and adults, here are some great sites we’ve found:

adjustable bike rack that holds 1 tricycle or 2 bicycles = $370 

http://www.industrialbicycles.com/Allstarrack.htm

Utah Trikes (Sun Trike, 24” wheels) = $800

http://www.utahtrikes.com/PROD-11618204.html

TrikeZilla axle conversion kit = $400

http://trikezilla.com/Home_Page_QBVX.php

*need a single-speed bike with a front brake

Bicycle Designer trike conversion kit = $249

http://www.bicycledesigner.com/trike-parts/trike-conversion-kit-with-36-spoke-hubs.html

Worksman folding Port-O-Trike (20” wheels) = $500

http://industrialbicycles.com/portotrike.htm

(I’m leaning on this tree. It folds. It has 20″ wheels. It has a basket. They also have a 16″ trike option for Littles! Love it.)

Desoto Classic Trike (20”, 24”, 26” wheels) = $380

http://www.industrialbicycles.com/DesotoClassicTricycle.htm

Worksman trike-cycle Eagle (24″ wheels) = $469

http://www.worksmancycles.com/shopsite_sc/store/html/eag-cb.html

iCan Bike workshops

(teach special-needs kiddos how to ride bicycles independently)

http://icanshine.org

helmets

A major fact in our life is the “my sibling gets all this fun stuff and therapy and equipment and time and money and attention because she has some obvious special-needs” phenomena that is so common. Gus and Abby are young, but, trust me. They feel it. They know Ry gets to ride horses and they don’t. They know Ry sees different doctors than they do and plays in special rooms with SUPER FUN toys at school and is allowed snacks at random times. They don’t understand why, but they certainly see it.

I made an executive decision this weekend that the 36 donors would be perfectly fine with all three kids receiving new helmets of choice. Savvy? And, we’ve decided to take any extra left over post-bike/trike-selection and keep it for future fun, independent possibilities for Rylie-O. Now, we just have to pick the actual bike/trike.

ALL THIS simply in the interest of full-disclosure, honesty in relationships, and humor.

Mostly, I just want to say,

Thank you.

We’ll do you proud.


being brave

Monday morning, folks… Monday morning was magical. By Monday afternoon, we had raised all of the $1000 plus some extra for Rylie’s hot wheels. So. Much. Joy. Curt has been out of town all week, but you better believe I clapped and danced all day long… and ever since. You are remarkable, brave, and generous people and we are so blessed to walk this life with you. We’ll talk a bit more about this project after the weekend. Who am I kidding? We’ll talk A LOT more about this.

Monday night, the world lost the great Robin Williams to suicide after battling depression. I wish I could say, “I can’t imagine,” but the bare truth is I can. I absolutely can. Darkness is a very real presence at my table and an open topic in my marriage. We’ll talk a lot more about all this, too. But, later. 

There have been some ridiculous, hurtful, and ignorant words publicly written about mental health and faith in the last couple days. There have also been some glorious, hopeful, life-giving words. The following two responses have been my favorite because of their specific truth in my life:

by Ann Voskamp 

by Glennon Melton

Late Monday evening, a dear friend of mine emailed and asked if I would make room on my blog for her words. She needed a place to lay it all down. Since this is a safe and kind and honest kind of neighborhood here, and since I am the boss of me, I said absolutely. Today, we make room for her story:

• By Good Day Sunshine

Robin Williams died today.  

To some it was just another heartbreaking, tragic Hollywood story.  As a child who grew up with Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin and even a little bit of Mork & Mindy, just to name a few, it was like this person I ‘knew’ was suddenly gone.

And it was also SO much more than that.

My mother called to tell me. I’d been washing dishes and barely heard the phone ring for the last time as I turned off the water. I missed the call and called her back, and she broke the news she’d just heard on television – he was gone, and of an apparent suicide. And then, almost as if on cue, she said something I’ve heard her say my whole life – “you just never know what people are dealing with” – and I’d never heard it so clearly.

It was so clear because, against anything I would have ever seen coming, MY family has been those ‘people’ over the past few years. And, again, like she said, you just never would have known.

A little over 3 years ago, just before my 30th birthday, my world started unraveling. The very, very short story (that I know won’t seem short) is this:  

My father suddenly started acting VERY bizarrely shortly after an operation he’d had. We couldn’t figure out what was going on, and finally got him to the Emergency Room. Like a punch to the face, we left that day carrying a diagnosis for him of bipolar disease. You know, one of those things that doesn’t happen to people you know. To your family.  He was in the ‘manic’ phase – really, really happy, not sleeping, unbelievable energy, spending money frivolously, all very ‘high’ things. Therapy and medication helped level him out fairly soon (although living it seemed like 46 eternities) and we hoped we were home free.

Not so fast.

The stress and insanity of the few months our family went through this did two big things: really, really upset a chronic illness that I have and made me very, very sick, and also uncovered a drinking problem that my mother had. Again, something that doesn’t happen to your people, right?

After therapy, anti-depressants, medication for panic attacks and about a million doctors visits and trips to specialists, I got myself situated. My mother did not.

Fast forward a few months and I am sitting in the office of a professional interventionist, planning with my family to ambush (as I saw it at the time) my mother and take her – on the spot – to a rehabilitation facility nearby. I felt so deceitful, so dishonest. I had never ever lied to my mother and doing all of this brought with it a ton of lying and sneaking around.

Ringing the front doorbell to the house that I grew up in, in line with my sister, aunts and uncles, to surprise my mother and tell her all the reasons she needed help and needed to go away was the most nauseating thing I have EVER done. It is also, believe it or not, the thing in my life I’m the most proud of. I knew, way down deep, that we were saving her life.  Rehab was a precious gift to our family. It’s not been the smoothest path since she finished, but it has been so so much better than it could have been.

So we’re good now, right?

Not quite.

Opposite of the mania, the other end of bipolar disease is depression. Most folks tend to go that way first, then mania next. Dad went the other way. The mania was first and was very, very worrisome and unpredictable. The depression? I don’t know that I have ever watched something so heartbreaking. My father, the former college athlete, the astute businessman, the ‘father to everyone,’ the guy who doesn’t shut up ever because he never meets a stranger and wants to talk to everyone – he was disappearing before our very eyes. Losing amazing amounts of weight, hallucinating, sleeping ALL the time, avoiding anything and everything social, convincing himself he was in financial ruins and that everything we knew in life was about to be taken away… I have never been so terrified in my life. Another Emergency Room visit, 3 days in a psych holding unit (I now know exactly what Hell looks like) and another 4 in a locked psych unit. And then several months after where he hated us all for putting him there.

So sure, some people close to us knew about all of this (and they were and are incredible heroes to us), but very few. And otherwise? You never would have had a clue. My parents, in their nice house with the pretty dogs and perfect lawn. Me, with my good job and shiny SUV. But the truth was, we lived an absolute nightmare for the better part of about 3 years.

And all of it – ALL OF IT – was because of two different mental illnesses. You know, those things that don’t happen to ‘our people’. For us, it was bipolar disease and addiction.

I’ve stood in an ER parking lot convincing security guards that my dad, who was in a mental state and screaming and swinging at me, was not a mean person, but was sick…I’ve sat in the office of a professional therapist and had to admit, through choking sobs, that my mother is an alcoholic… I’ve laid in bed at night and had panic attacks that felt like they may never end…I’ve begged a case worker in a hospital to please admit my father to a psych ward because we were scared to take him home… I’ve emptied a closet in my little sister’s childhood bedroom of so many empty, hidden liquor bottles that I lost count… I have folders full of information marked ‘alcoholism and addiction’ and ‘bipolar disease’ in my file cabinets, sandwiched between the usual tabs of car insurance and power bills.

There’s so much more that happened. So, so much. But, surely you get the picture.

We are okay right now. At this very moment, we are okay. I have learned more than I ever thought possible that ‘one day at a time’ is a very legitimate mantra in life. It might blow up one way or another tomorrow, but at this very second, i think we are good. My parents are absolutely incredible people, and they each have an illness. And I’m not ever going anywhere and will do anything I can to help them when they need it.

We HAVE to talk about mental illnesses. WE HAVE TO. Lives depend on it. Families depend on it.  I can guarantee you – I CAN GUARANTEE YOU – that people you know and love and people that they know and love are dealing with these things and YOU HAVE NO IDEA.  It’s not your fault that you don’t know. It’s this world where it isn’t ‘okay’ to talk about it until Robin Williams dies and then we all talk about it for about 4 days and how we wish he’d gotten help, and then we don’t talk about it anymore until this all happens again to someone else.

If you need help – TELL SOMEONE. If you know someone who needs help for mental illness – STEP UP AND HELP THEM GET IT. It might get ugly and messy and really, really hard but that’s okay. You might not be able to fix it – actually, you more than likely won’t be the one who can fix it. But, if you can just get them to the people who CAN help, I can promise you, it will make some sort of difference. You will have done SOMETHING.

by Ian Maclaren