By Up Parenting Creek

Such beautiful lessons about grace and peace in the midst of childhood cancer.

Childhood Cancer: Lessons from Our First Year

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Such beautiful lessons about grace and peace in the midst of childhood cancer.Berkleigh was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma on September 15, 2014. It’s been one long year. In that time, we have done six rounds of chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, 5 or 6 surgeries, countless biopsies, scans and radiation.

We finished our last antibody treatment on Friday. We even had a party.

Having just walked through the Red Sea, I am overcome with emotions.

And all these thoughts are jumbled up and drenched in prayer, tears and stale coffee. Forgive me, if I ramble.

I used to read about the exodus from Egypt…and think “those Israelites! They saw God’s miracles. They walked on dry land through giant walls of water…get to the other side and doubt God? Seriously?”

I am eating those words…because this morning at 4 am, Berkleigh spiked a fever and we are right back where we started in the ER. Admitted. Again.

James 1: 2 - 6While I know that God is healing my daughter, I have caught myself more times than I care to admit within the last month doubting our financial recovery, complaining about this time in the desert and the manna that He is providing.

I am an Isaelite! Good grief!

I wonder how long I will be waiting for the other shoe to drop. I wonder how long “my leg hurts” or a high fever will punch me in the stomach and take my breath away.

So when I feel like I can’t possibly take anymore, I remember the key to JOY:

I look to Jesus…J

I look to Others….O

Then I consider Yours truly…Y

One of the hardest things about cancer is managing this sequence. Keeping Jesus first isn’t hard. We have nothing but time to pray and so much to say.

Serving others becomes the biggest challenge. Loving, wonderful people have a tendency to put “cancer moms” first. It is a huge blessing. But it always keeps us in the position of being served. And sometimes holds us hostage to the emotions that come with being a cancer mom.

Honestly, we are unreliable. We have a ton on our plate. But, allowing us to hold your baby at a birthday party, or do the dishes, helps us to have a glimpse of just being another mom. Being ourselves.

And any distraction from dwelling in this moment and focusing on ourselves brings us closer to joy.

When your child has cancer, it is easy to get caught up in “to do” lists, trying to keep things normal for brothers and sisters, and just finishing the treatments at hand. It is easy to worry. It is easy to give into fear.
I am so blessed to have the Word to redirect me. I am humbly admitting it to you. I know with all my being that the God, who has healed my baby, CARES about all the schedule adjustments, the mini medical issues, financial concerns, relationships, siblings and anything else that would creep in and steal my peace.

Berkleigh's JourneyI am committing to rest and enjoy this season of manna in the desert – because there are miracles here too. And being with God in the desert is amazing in comparison to life in a “perfect world” without Him.

I want to be in the presence of the living God, content and humble.

Kneeling next to her bed this morning, I am choosing thankfulness – God, you are so good!

I am choosing faith…just living it.

I am choosing peace…resting in the arms of a loving God who has shown me faithfulness in abundance.

Kyler, my 14 year old, once explained to Taryn, who is six, that God is a healer. And he WOULD heal Berkleigh. He could do that through the doctors, through a miracle, or by taking her to heaven. Our job was to be courageous and be “ok” with however God chose to do that.

I can’t put my own limitations on a limitless, all-powerful God. God covers all of this. Completely.


Stacie Slaughter Griggs

Guest post written by:

Stacie Slaughter Griggs

 

 

Blowing your homeschool budget? Check out these tips.

Homeschooling a Large Family on a Small Budget

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One question people often ask when they learn we homeschool is, “How can you afford it? That must be really expensive! Especially when you  have so many children!” It does help that my husband is an electrical engineer with a good salary. It doesn’t help that we live in California’s Silicon Valley, which is notoriously expensive, and that we have six children. But that doesn’t mean that educating our children at home has to be incredibly expensive.

Blowing your homeschool budget? Check out these tips.

My oldest son has just started college, and my youngest daughter just turned three, with four more girls in between. My son was the guinea pig, the one for whom I found a path by trial and error, so the expenses for his homeschooling were perhaps more than for the others as we tried and discarded different books and curricula. Of course, with only a couple of children, other expenses in our lives were not as great. Once we figured out a curriculum and books we liked, we had materials and approaches to use as the others got older. And just as in other areas of large families, the younger children got a lot of hand-me-downs!

When we had an idea of how our children learned, and found a curriculum that fit their learning style, we also found other people who had a similar approach to homeschooling and used the same books. So we all saved by swapping books over the years. At the beginnings and ends of school years, emails and phone calls would fly around: “Do you have my history books for third grade? I think I have your fourth grade math book!” This community sharing of resources helps greatly in keeping the expenses down – and saves on storage space!

There’s a catch, though, to this great hand-me-down system: one of my middle children has a very different learning style than my older children. So all the materials I carefully collected didn’t work with her. Now what? Again, my community of homeschoolers was very helpful. Someone was done with a different math program and passed the supplies on to me. I got recommendations for different programs that might work for her, and was able to find them at the library or inexpensively at curriculum swaps or ebay. I did splurge on an expensive reading program for her, and once she learned to read, I was able to re-sell it for a pretty good price.

The library is, of course, a great resource for thrifty homeschoolers! Many times the books we wanted to use were available at the library. Or if we were considering using a different book, we could borrow it from the library and save the expense of buying a totally unsuitable book! The savings in not having to purchase books is tremendous! Our local library also has a used book area as well as regular used book sales where I’ve found useful books, including textbooks, for very little.

Used curriculum swaps are also great. There are always a lot of local sales, as well as bargains online at ebay, Amazon (always using the GHF affiliate link!) or curriculum swap sites. My local homeschool group often has people informally buying and selling curriculum, but many people just bring stuff to give away once they’re done with it. Each week, there’s a blanket to the side of the group gathering covered with books and stuff for our “great exchange.”

Aside from the direct academic expenses, such as books and supplies, the enrichment activities can be very expensive! To control these expenses, I try to put my children in the same activities as much as possible to take advantage of multiple-child discounts. Some places have given extra discounts for my younger children because I’ve been such a loyal customer: “Yes, we can do better than the 20% off for an additional child once your fourth child is in the program!” It never hurts to ask! This can also work if several families inquire together: a class might be started at a less popular time at a discount over the regular prices. Also, once my children are older and have a job I ask them to help contribute to the expenses of their activities. I also try to use smaller, local activities, such as through the community centers as they tend to be less expensive but can be just as rigorous as the “name brands.”  For the most part, my children have participated in extra activities such as soccer, dance, and gymnastics as much as they wanted.

Trying to homeschool on a budget? Check out these great ideas.Our family vacations are always learning times as well. With so many children, flying is not cost effective for us, so our vacations are driving trips. To save on costs we camp when we can, sometimes borrowing my in-laws old motor home. Since we like to visit state and national parks, the costs for this are quite low. And the children always do the Junior Ranger activities, so every vacation continues our learning adventure! This past summer, we drove up the Pacific coast, visiting lighthouses, the Olympic National Park rainforest, and beaches with tide pools with starfish and otters. We all had fun learning new things!

Now that I have one child in college, I can look back over the years and the costs and consider, has it been worth it? And it definitely has been worth the sacrifices along the way. My son has grown to be a fine young man, and my daughters are also growing into lovely, talented young women. And I have also learned many new things. Education may be expensive, but the results of are priceless!


About the Author:

Eleen KamasEleen Kamas is a homeschooling mother of six who lives in the Silicon Valley of California, where the weather is great but we’re all praying for rain. When she’s not driving the kids to activities or guiding their learning, she serves on the board of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, helps out at the local Catholic homeschool group, and occasionally has time to read, cross-stitch, and try not to trip over her feet in “beginner” ballet lessons.

This poGHFst was written as part of a blog hop hosted by The Gifted Homeschoolers Forum.

Check out other people’s thoughts on Parenting Gifted/2E Kids on a Shoestring.


Racism in the Mirror

Racism in the Mirror

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I am brave enough to write this but not brave enough to use my real name.

Racism in the Mirror

Lately there has been so much discussion about race, racism, white privilege, and I see a lot of anger and discomfort by whites in identifying with any kind of privilege or racism – systematic, personal, other. I completely understand. Racism is an ugly, horrible word, who would willingly acknowledge that as part of their identity? I will.

Racism Is Not Innate

Racism, prejudice, bias, whatever you want to call it, is not innate. It is learned from our environment. I grew up in the South. Growing up, the world that I knew of consisted of 2 races, black and white (and that one Jewish girl in school). I don’t remember anyone ever using the “N” word, but it was clear that there was “us” and “them” and we each kept to our own groups. (Ironic given that on both sides of my family within 2 generations prior were impoverished immigrants, and I was raised in the lower class/ lower-middle class.)

That changed for me in middle school with “Jennifer.” Jennifer was black, and her family moved here from the West Coast. Given that my life-long dream was to move out of the South, a friend from the West Coast was exotic and desirable to me. We became good friends, played over at each other’s houses, went on trips with each other’s families, but one thing we were never allowed to do was go do things in our town together – play in the park, go to the movies, etc. – it was not allowed because it wasn’t “safe” for a white girl and black girl to do things together in our town. Our parents never told us that we couldn’t be friends, but we definitely got the message that most people would think that there was something wrong with it.

The next major milestone that stands out for me is high school. There was a “girls ask boys” dance. I wasn’t dating anyone, and there was a guy in my group of friends who was just about the sweetest guy in the world. He was black; I thought he’d be a great person to ask to go as a friend. When I told my parents about the guy I asked to the dance, they were not pleased. I was told that they would not ask me to dis-invite him; however, I was not to date him or any other black man in the future. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but it was made clear that blacks were inferior as a race and not appropriate romantic partners. Although it didn’t sit right with me, and I didn’t believe it, I feared the estrangement that disobedience might bring from my family and only dated whites from that point forward.

Although We May Desire to Change, It Can Still Be a Challenge

After college, I realized my dream of leaving the South and moved to a large city in the North with several universities. My social racial and ethnic circle widened tremendously – Sikhs, Atheists, Congregationalists (I’m still not entirely sure what those are), Israelis, Brits, people from Eastern Europe, South America, and many others. I loved meeting people from all these different backgrounds and places and learning more about what made them who they were. Everyone I encountered was curious, open, and generous in sharing about themselves.

Professionally it was more of a struggle. I was a young white woman working in social services with people who were mentally ill, homeless, or for some reason involved in the social safety net due to dire personal circumstances. Given what we know about poverty in the US, it’s not surprising that a significant number of our clients were minorities. My social service work is where I first began to feel push-back from people based on how they saw me. I was seen as rich, white, and elite, and I’m sure my youth and lack of experience didn’t help. I was raised that education was the highest priority, and being intelligent was a thing of pride. Add in my Southernness, and my defense mechanism when I feel uncomfortable or threatened is to become distantly polite and use the most proper, formal language possible. This wasn’t helpful with my clients, and my experience of being disliked for how I presented myself made me more uncomfortable and fearful in dealing with people who were different because I assumed that they would dislike me.

This started to change when my I took a job that was closer to community organizing. Our job was to go into the community and ask people what they wanted, and then help create trainings to help them achieve those goals for themselves. I was incredibly lucky to have an amazing mentor in this job. She was also white with an advanced degree, but she had a life-long passion for social and racial justice, and was absolutely fearless when it came to engaging with others. The perspective shift from “we’re the experts, let us tell you what you need” to “you’re the expert, please tell us how we can help you access the tools to achieve your goals” made a huge difference. I saw mentor succeed; I saw her fail. I saw her good intentions lead to a complaint filed with the local human rights commission, but she never let that stop her. She introduced me to the concept of white privilege, and it is due to her that I really started looking within myself at how I thought about race.

My supervisor was a big believer in training for staff and our many volunteers. I will never forget the training exercise that helped me acknowledge and come to terms with the racism that exists within me. Our agency partnered with an amazing woman who is the best trainer I have ever worked with. When we asked her to create a training around prejudice, bias and privilege, she used many exercises, including this one: She divided us into groups of 5 or 6 people. She gave each group a type of person/ stereotype (Hispanic male, lesbian, Christian, etc.). She gave each group 2 or 3 minutes to come up with as many descriptive terms about people in this group as possible. She wanted to know everything that we had thought or heard others say about this group (especially what we’ve heard others say).

It was fascinating. Anytime a negative term came up, people in the group were uncomfortable even acknowledging it – to a point the let us know that they didn’t think this, but they’d heard others say it. We all came up with our lists that contained, positive, negative, and neutral terms. The trainer had us review our lists as one big group, ask if people could think of any other terms, and discuss the lists. The trainer asked if people believed all the negative terms on the lists. Of course, everyone responded with a resounding, “No!”

The trainer then asked, where these negative terms came from. The trainees responded that they had heard other people say them. The trainer noted that this is what happens when see people or are with people who we identify as coming from these groups. Not only is our own voice inside our head, but we hear the voices of others saying these terms, positive and negative. These are the words that come into our heads when we see these groups. We may not believe these ideas, but they are there in our minds when we see these people.

So many times in my work, I had seen colleagues and volunteers vehemently declare that they were not biased and were completely open minded yet discuss clients judgmentally behind their backs (or even make comments to their face). There is no way that they would self-identify as prejudiced, but I can see all the baggage of all their previous experience coming into play, whether they are aware or not.

Realizing There Is Always Work to Be Done

I have come to believe that it is better to be aware of these rogue ideas fighting for space within my mind. When I drive through a part of town with more check cashing stores and bars on the windows, see someone, and the words “addict” or “unemployed” or “lazy” come into my mind (and worse words that I don’t want to include here. It causes me pain to acknowledge that these terms pop more easily into my mind if this person is a person of color). Because I want to fight this racism within myself, I now acknowledge that these words come into my mind. I didn’t used to, I used to squash them down as fast as I could, so I could pretend that they were never there in the first place.

Instead, now I ask them where they came from. I challenge myself, “Do I really believe that?” If the answer is yes, I ask myself, “why do I believe that?” If the answer is no, I ask myself “why did that word come into my mind?” I know that I will never be without these words in my mind. I know that I will never be without judging others based on how they look or act; however, I hope that I will always challenge myself anytime I identify a belief as coming from anything other than personal experience with that individual person.

However, there’s more work to do than this. I don’t live in a tremendously diverse town, and I am not brave about seeking out groups where I create a community where people look and live differently.

Why?

I’m afraid.

First, I’m a super-introvert, so going into a group of strangers (even in similar-to-me groups) is anxiety provoking enough.

Second, what will these different groups think of me? Will I put my foot in my mouth and offend someone horribly? Will they see me as inauthentic, stuck-up, elite?

I know that this is a barrier that I need to cross at some point. If not for myself, then for my children. It’s great to have all these wonderful thoughts and ideas, but I want to pass along the best of this openness and acceptance to my children and help them realize how much of an advantage that they have just because of their skin color and American accent. I want them to be aware of and fight injustice when they see it. It feels like a very heavy burden, especially when I’m still trying to figure out my own.

If you have also begun to think about this or make efforts to talk about race with your family, I would love to hear your story!


Resources:

A great link to test your implicit biases (you have more than you think).

This is a video describing what white privilege is.

Here’s a post on privilege vs. guilt.

Finally some reflective thoughts about reacting to and taking action regarding racism.