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Monday, March 26, 2012

How I "Do It"

I have been asked a lot lately, in reference to homeschooling Jackson, "How do you do it?" Usually, I just shrug and say, "I don't know. I just do it."  But I got to thinking about that question and had a bit of an epiphany as a result.

Homeschooling is not common where I live. People in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County, Virginia take a lot of pride in how great the public school system is here in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.  Most families, in my immediate community of Sleepy Hollow, are run by parents who both have college degrees and often advanced education as well.  Homeschooling is just not considered necessary or even practical.  I wouldn't say it is frowned upon, just not given much thought as a desirable alternative.

To add to that, families from all of the world move to this area to get public educational services for their special needs children because of the high quality and diversity of offerings.  It really is an amazing educational area that deserves a tremendous amount of praise and admiration.

It just wasn't the right fit for Jackson. 

So I homeschool because I have to.  I do it because I need to, and I do it because everyone else failed, and I refuse to fail Jackson.  But that does not explain how I can do it with so much energy and optimism, with so much joy and enthusiasm...with so much genuine happiness.

Here is a great blog entitled, "Dear School Personnel, Community Members, Teacher, Parents and Neighbors, by Marianne Russo, a well known and respected voice in the autism community.  She speaks to the heart of the special needs mother who feels "overwhelmed, confused, heart broken and struggling to unravel the complexities before her."  It is a plea to not judge or persecute her or her child but to extend compassion and understanding.  It is a heart-wrenching a totally honest look inside the spirit of many special needs mothers...

It is just not how I feel.  I am not overwhelmed or confused.  I am not heartbroken or angry.  I am not tired or frustrated.  

Lon Solomon, the pastor of McLean Bible Church, said on Saturday night, "Do not tell me what an omnipotent God can do!" And that statement perfectly reflects how I feel about how I have the energy and passion to homeschool an autistic teenager.  Do not tell me how tired I am supposed to be or how frazzled he is supposed to make me...because I am not.  Homeschooling Jackson has given me a renewed spirit and vigor that I haven't felt in a while.  He energizes me and motivates me to be a better mother, teacher, friend, and person.

Paul and I, for all our sarcasm and rigid emotional exteriors, are both eternal optimists!  We believe that anything is possible, and honestly think that we can overcome any challenge or obstacle in our way.  We are mini bulldozers and refuse to be derailed from whatever path we feel God has led us on.  Some people might call us foolish or reckless. Many friends and family have questioned our various decisions over the past 15 years, but we move forward with a confidence and hope that is hard to explain but easy to see in our everyday lives.

Homeschooling Jackson is just one of many outrageous things the Lord has called us to do and we know there are many more crazy things on the horizon for the Trotter family and hope we can have the same unashamed optimism for them as well!

I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

13 Years Ago Today

It is Saturday, March 10th 2012 and 13 years ago today, I woke up to a very different life. Shockingly, I didn't drink coffee or wine.  I was organized and disciplined.  I was ideological and judgmental.  I had never heard of Osama Bin Laden, iPhones or autism.  If someone had told me what 2012 would be like, I would have laughed and said, "you left out the flying cars!"

March 10th, 1999  Kitzingen, Germany

I woke up at the crack of dawn because I hadn't been able to sleep in weeks.  I was 40 weeks pregnant and tired.  We lived in a tiny government issued, war-time apartment in a beautiful small town in northern Bavaria.   Paul's first assignment with the Army was in Germany and we were so young, but so wide-eyed and excited to be on this new adventure together. Although we had no family within 3000 miles, we had friends, many of whom have come to be our dearest in the world...Kathleen, Dan, Shauna & Stacey.

Jackson was born at 4:30pm and after deciding at the last minute to change his name from Caleb Robert to Jackson Paul, we took home a perfectly healthy and wonderful baby boy along with all of our hopes and dreams for him.

If you had asked me what I thought Jackson would be like on his 13th birthday, I would have laughed and said: big, loud, messy and smelly with an attitude.  I knew very little about 13 yr old boys and frankly could not imagine my sweet little baby boy as a teenager.

March 10th, 2012  Falls Church, Virginia

I woke up at the crack of dawn because I heard Jackson roaming around downstairs and didn't want him to wake up Paul who has been so tired lately and needs his sleep.  As I come out of my room, J strolls up to me, gives me the most genuine hug, kisses me on the cheek and says, "Good morning mom, I love you. Come this way", as he leads me downstairs to the coffee maker where he knows I gravitate this early in the morning.  He flops down on the couch, pulls the blanket up under his chin and watches the news while I wake myself up with some strong coffee and check my email.

Birthdays always lend themselves to reflection, and today is no different.  Thirteen is a big milestone for some, but for Jackson, it seems less significant.  Not because he has autism, but because his whole life has been significant and I have no new or higher expectations for him today that I did not have for him yesterday.  Today does not mark the beginning of his manhood, we are not going to send him out into the woods to kill a bear or teach him how to shave. Jackson's impact on the world is not determined by his age, but by his spirit...and God has blessed him with an incredible spirit that has changed countless lives already.

As I am sitting here, I realize that autism has not taken anything from him, it has rearranged some things, but underneath all the challenges, lies a big, loud, messy and smelly boy with an attitude...just as I envisioned all those years ago...I just got a different attitude than I expected:)

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