Happy Metcha Day Paul!

Real quick- we haven’t met again about the IEP, but I am in a very good place about it.  Sometimes just the reality of all of this – the things I don’t know, the few things I do know, the conflicting opinions, the forces outside of all our control – they just become overwhelming.  But I’ve got some great stuff put together, and more importantly, I know that the whole team means well.  Truly.  I just have to remember that there can just be other factors at play when it comes to schools.

But on to more important things…

We met Paul four years ago on October 4!  Here’s some photos from that day.


They put him in one of the only blue outfits they had and brought him in so meet us.  Ryan held him first, while I took notes on everything they were telling us about him.  I really wanted to hold him, but it’s important to get that information then, because you may never hear it again.  15 months and 15 lbs.  Fairly awake at first, but likely on sleep aids.  He never smiled, but he had the same sapphire blue eyes that sparkle now.

A few minutes after we first laid eyes on him they asked us what we were going to name him, wrote it down on some forms and our facilitator went off to file papers for court.

(It happens that fast.)

A lot has happened in 4 years- lots of medical care, therapies, preschool and now kindergarten.  He instantly gained, not only a mom and dad, but a brother about his age, and then a baby brother later on.

He helps me vacuum and is the only one in the family who puts his shoes where they belong.  He’s often requesting me to sing songs, shaking his head no until I get the one he wants (right now the hits are Panis Angelicus and O Beautiful for Spacious Skies.)  And he’s usually up for cuddles.  He’s just getting to be such a big boy; losing his baby face and acting more mature.  He’s a delight.

Paul has made me such a different mother than I thought I would ever be.  He makes me crazy one second, but melts my heart the next.  He’s taught me about what’s important in life.  About how to work hard, like he does.  He’s made me think and rethink all my parenting and discipline instincts.  I know more about medicine and special education that I ever thought I would.  I just think I approach the world differently now, and it’s a really good thing.  And I owe it all to Paul.




IEP- am I unreasonable?

I am far behind over here.  I still haven’t written about our summer birthdays or updated you on the house which was painted about a month ago.  And, well, this post isn’t going to move me forward with either of those things.

This post is more just…me just needing some support.

You may remember last year, during IEP season, we worked to get Paul in General Ed for some additional time.  It was set to be the first hour of the day, from 8:30-9:30, and then recess, snack, and the lunchtime recess.


Except for the first two weeks of school-there was some confusion and he was in general ed all morning except for 1/2 hour.   They even did push in services like OT, PT, ST.  It wasn’t really what we were going for.  I picked up on this and then chatted with the special ed teacher.  I only have a glimpse of how this got confused.  The minutes were messed up, but not the Gen Ed minutes, only the Special Ed minutes, so they must not have looked at all of it.  And they certainly didn’t read the notes where it clearly laid out when Paul would be where.  Twice.


But ok.  So we scheduled an IEP to amend the minutes.  I observed Paul a couple of times so I could see how he was doing, particularly in the Gen Ed room.  After observing, I wrote out a few behavioral suggestions, along with a list of probably 20 sensory or fine motor activities his aide could do with him to “break up” the desk work.  The half hour of more intensive work from 9-9:30, mostly at the desk, was behaviorally problematic.  Paul was clearly bored and frustrated- becoming vocal, not wanting to sit at the desk, not wanting to do writing (hand over hand, or otherwise).

Then we had the IEP.  It was supposed to just be about amending the minutes, but when I was told how everyone was going to be invited, I knew something was up!  Lo and behold, the Gen Ed teacher recommended moving him out of the room from 9-9:30 and instead have him back in later (around 11, maybe?) for a snack and read aloud time.

So his Gen Ed minutes would stay the same, just at different times.

And I’m not trying to be a pain in the ass.  Really.

But I’m having some problems, and I never sign anything at an IEP meeting, so nothing is set yet.

First- yeah, Paul will be an angel during snack and read aloud time, because there’s food.  I haven’t really gotten an answer, despite an e-mail and a phone conversation, about how much of that time is munching on crackers and how much is work.  But I don’t want him to only behave when there’s food.  I want him to behave, period.  And he has to be taught how to do that.  We lose our opportunity to modify his behavior if we only allow him in Gen Ed when he poses no challenges.

But even more than that, I really want to believe that we’ve worked reasonably hard for Paul to be successful before we change up his schedule.  And I’m just not convinced.  They’ve been providing him with alternate sensory/fine motor activities for 2 weeks.  And the only things they’ve actually tried were things provided by me, along with Paul’s private OT, and their OT (her ideas were along the same lines as what we gave.)

I’m not the educational professional here.  Where are all their ideas?  When a child with DS and/or ASD is bored and frustrated doing desk work, what do you do?  SHOW me that you’re doing your job.  If you haven’t tried anything else, then tell me what you’ve at least thought about trying and why you didn’t do it.

I’ve got more ideas.  A whole page of ideas, and in 4 different categories- support ideas, new sensory/motor ideas, ways to modify the work, and behavioral support for the staff.  So what are they thinking of?

And just 2 weeks.  To me, that is not long enough.  It takes 6-8 weeks to modify behavior.  I think that’s how long we should work at it, and if he hasn’t improved in that time, then we can explore our options.

I mean, honestly, am I unreasonable?  It pains me to call another IEP meeting.  I’m a considerate human being.  I understand how busy they are.  I don’t like taking up more of their time.  But really,  have we made a solid effort to help Paul be successful?  I don’t think so.

And this negative behavior?  It needs to be dealt with now.  Not later.  Now. Because the kid is strong, and it will get harder.  And he is clever and could just become more challenging.  And above all, he’s smart, and we should all get to see that.

So tell me your thoughts.  And if anyone could shed some light on the expectations of each of the teachers when Paul is in Gen ed, I would appreciate that.  I am just not clear on what the general ed teacher is supposed to be doing with Paul.  Does she modify work, or is it solely the special ed teacher?  I know you can write in the IEP consult between the teachers every week.  I think because Paul has an aide with him, he is just sort of floating along in there, with the aide taking care of everything, and the teacher just letting that happen.




Ben likes to talk.  Like, a lot.  Most would think he is my easiest child, and that is true in some ways.  But let me tell you, when Grandma and Grandpa take Ben for a special day out, I enjoy so much silence.  Even though there is a 1 year old and a child with special needs still in need of my care, there is so much peace.  I mean, I do want Paul to talk someday.  But in the meantime, ahhh, sweet silence.

Though, I must say, when my currently nonverbal children do learn to talk, life will get much more interesting, assuming they come out with similar stuff as Ben.

So, as documentation of some of the funny things he says, here we go.

Ben: Mom, I want more kids.
Meg: Do you mean siblings or at school?
Ben: Both.  I have brothers, but no sister.  The next baby we have needs to be a girl, so I can have a sister.  And if not that baby, then the next one after that.

Ben: You know who puts all his underwear on at the same time?  Aiden.

PS. Aiden is Ben’s friend that he made while we were on our getaway earlier this year.  He is also the person who does every weird thing Ben can think of.

Ben: Mom, where were you born?
Meg: Connecticut.
Ben: That’s where Riley and Livy live!  Where was Dad born?
Meg: Indiana.
Ben: That’s where Grandpa just went!  Xander and I were born in Montana.
Meg: Yup.
Ben: And Paul was born in Ukraine.  And there’s a crane there.  Because it’s called Ukraine.

Ben: Did you see how quick that was??
Meg: How quick what was?
Ben: My poop.
Meg: No, I didn’t get to see that.


Raising Chaste Catholic Men! Chatting with Leila.

Today is an exciting day, my dear readers!  Have you heard me talk about my friend of several years, Leila?  Here she is:



Well today, Leila is publishing her first book, entitled Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom.



As a general rule, I would say you should buy any book Leila writes, or even just recommends.  She is a gifted defender of the Catholic faith. She is intelligent, courageous, and humble.  I could go on with many accolades, but what you really need to know is that she is the mother of 8 children 6 of them boys!  She is familiar with all the challenges our boys are up against these days, especially in the realm of sexuality and virtue, yet she is managing to raise faithful and chaste young men.

As a mother of 3 sons, I was so excited that Leila was writing this book!  To look around at today’s culture and then to turn and look at your little boys and wonder how that culture will shape them – well, it is hard to be hopeful sometimes.  But Leila’s book gives me hope, as well as practical advice that will help me be a better mother.

Since I got an early copy of Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom, I was able to put together some questions so you could get to know a little bit about Leila and this book, so here we go…


I love that you described the book as two Catholic moms sitting down over a cup of tea to have a conversation.  It made it very honest and down to earth to me.  And as a person who has only been mothering boys for 5 years, I so appreciated the stories you told about when you caved to some of your sons’ demands or that you had a difficult relationship with one of your sons for a few years.  It’s comforting to know that we can mess up, but we can also change course, and our kids can still turn out ok.
Yes, that is part of the “hope” that I wanted to give the moms out there who are struggling, wondering what will become of their son(s). I had great fear about one or two sons in particular, and today they are just good, solid young men! For a while, I just had no idea how we were going to get out of this behavior problem we had with our third son, and it went on for years, with lots of attempts to fix things, in various ways. That’s probably a whole other story in itself, too long for a blog post! But it has a very happy ending. Keep praying, never give up. 
Early on in the book, you talk about how important it is to be both a parent and a friend. How do you create the right balance in the relationship?
This is probably not a great thing, ha ha, but there is part of me that is still very much “young” (should I say “immature”?). Meaning, I like hearing about the kids at school and who my girls (at the time) thought was cute, etc. I like teasing my boys about stuff — in a non-mocking way, of course. I guess there is a playfulness that needs to be there? That is friendship. But at the same time, I am very strict about things of the faith (barring sickness or legitimate excuse, we will never miss Mass, not a day in my life while they live under my roof, for example), and moral formation. I don’t know that I always strike the right balance, as sometimes I’ve been too much a “friend” and sometimes that can lead to unconscious disrespect especially from boys. So, I reorient and try again. Sometimes it’s hit and miss, but that’s probably true for all parents and their kids. None of us knows exactly what we are doing all the time, and sometimes we look foolish. But, if the kids know we love them, and if they know we mean business on virtue training and our faith, then things tend to work out. 
You discussed how each of your children is different, and so you approached the sensitive topics of sex and chastity in different ways and at different times. It seems to me that doing so, goes against a lot of what I see and hear in the parenting world- that parents find *their way* of doing things, and if we do things differently for different kids, we are somehow being unfair.  Almost like it is more about the parents finding their method than the kids and their unique needs.  Do you feel like you see that in this particular area of parenting, as well as in others?
You know, that’s a really interesting question. Here’s one thing that comes to my mind: In general, with a big family especially, you have to do things differently because there is no way at all that you can make things “fair” for many kids. Sort of like, if I take one child to get ice cream on the way home from somewhere, the others might complain that it’s not fair, so that is when I say, “If I have to be fair and treat all of you the same all of the time, then that means you will all end up getting nothing. Because it cannot be done. So, if that’s what you want….” And usually that stops them, ha ha. But that is not really what you asked. You asked about the topic of sex and chastity. I think anyone who has more than a bare bones outline of what they will do or say for each child might be making a misstep, since each child is SO different in temperament, intellectual understanding, fears, needing to know, etc. Yes, we have a *general* plan, but that is as far as it goes. We go with what the child needs, and we use the Church as a guide. I stress in the book how much the Church stresses the parents’ DUTY and OBLIGATION to teach children about sexuality. But that will look different for each child. 
You have a chapter of the book entitled “Fear Has A Place.”  I think most of us parents don’t realize that this is already a page in our playbook, like in your example of teaching a toddler not to touch a stove for fear they could get burned.  But I still think the idea of using fear will rub people the wrong way, so for those parents who haven’t read your book yet, what would you like to say to them to ease their minds about this chapter?
I remember my dad teaching me how to drive and telling me that basically the car was a killing machine if it was not in the right hands. It made me really understand the power that a 16-year-old could have! That is the type of “fear” that we want to warn our kids about. The idea that there really ARE negative consequences to misuse of sexuality, and it’s stuff from which one cannot be easily extricated. It can really harm others, and even kill their soul, if not their body. Now, just like my dad, when he was teaching me to drive, did not dwell on the “killing machine” narrative, we shouldn’t be about negativity when it comes to sex. Sex is a great thing, sent straight from God for us! But just like a car, it has to be used as designed and intended. When that doesn’t happen, bad things result. We must tell our sons about the bad things that can result, simply because their education is not complete if they don’t get that part of the message. Not to mention that, just like telling a child not to touch a hot stove lest they get burned, there is a deterrent factor in letting them see the consequences of misuse. It sure helped my boys. 
Several times in the book, you mentioned a child’s character, and that when you see your child’s character change, it means that you might need to make a change. Can you discuss this principle a bit, what it could look like or maybe give us an example?
Sure! In our family, that “making a change” might mean a change of schooling. For example, we might pull a child in the middle of the year and homeschool. Maybe later, the child would go back to the school. We had and have a great deal of flexibility in our schools here, which some folks may not have, but for us it is a godsend and we use the opportunities we have to make sure that we are doing what each child needs at that time (or what the family needs). One son did not thrive at the charter school that the rest of his siblings attended for high school, so we allowed him to go to the huge public high school nearby, with the caveat that if his character changes, he’s outta there. So far so good, because he knows we mean it. 
It might mean cutting off video games completely (for several months at a time), or taking away means of communication if they are not communicating respectfully (so, the phone goes). We always say, “If anything causes evil in our home, the thing goes.” And so it does. Things like that. It goes back to one of the first principles of parenting that I outline in my book: Moral formation is the number one priority. The kids know how serious I am about that. 


Thank you Leila!  I encourage you to go buy Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom!  It is being released today and is available on Amazon, paperback or kindle version!

Possible paint color

We are on the painter’s schedule, and hopefully, if all goes well, our house will be painted and stained in about a month.  On their part, it depends on the weather.  On our part, it depends on whether or not we will chicken out and opt to save money.

Only time will tell.


In my recent efforts to learn some more photography, I took some evening shots of our house and did a little editing in light room.

Our House

Our House2


I know.  The front steps.  And the faded stain everywhere.  And the chipping paint (even more of it on other sides of the house!)

So as far as colors, I am thinking we should go neutral.  It’s quite common around here to have a neutral home when you have our color roof.  Plus, I tend to think it is generally pleasing and won’t put off any future homebuyer.

Here are two shades I’m considering.  They are Sherwin Williams Anonymous and Sherwin Williams Felted Wool.

Our House-anonymous

SW Anonymous

Our House-feltedwool

SW Felted Wool


We’ll also have some sort of white/light trim and we will be browning/darkening up the stain (looking at SW Hawthorne color.)  If the trim looks crazy bright in these photos, just disregard that.  Between the color underneath and the twilight tone of the rest of the photo, I just didn’t want to spend the time making it right.

So these two colors, Anonymous and Felted Wool, are basically the same, Felted Wool is a shade lighter.  I tend to prefer Felted Wool, but I’ve heard that you should usually go a shade darker than you think.  PLUS, when you search for home exteriors in that color, not one comes up, but when you search for SW Anonymous, there’s quite a few.  So, that has just made me question my instinct.

I think the smart thing to do is probably to go with my gut (the lighter one) and then if the first coat looks too light, I could ask them to use the darker one for the second coat.  I haven’t run this by the painter, but I think since it’s basically the same color, just a shade darker, it should work out ok and not be too much of a pain.  We would maybe just have to pay extra for more/different paint, but that would be worth it.


On reluctant husbands {repost}


A number of you have contact me after the post about Cristoff and a common theme is husbands who have concerns about adopting.  You aren’t alone!  I wrote this quite some time ago, but thought I’d repost it (with an updated pic of Paul at the end!)  I hope it it a little helpful.


As was the case in our family, it seems that the woman’s heart is often the first that is moved toward adoption.  God fashioned the feminine heart to be keen and sensitive, with the desire to nurture and care for those who are vulnerable.  I’ve seen these traits in one way shape or form in every woman I’ve encountered, even those who don’t fit the traditional role of mother. Look at Bl. Teresa of Calcutta.  She never bore a child, never adopted a child, but the love, and tender care she gave to those in need were a fruit, an overflowing, of her feminine heart.  She was of course the “Mother” of her religious order, but she was also a mother to the children in orphanages and the poor and homeless on the streets.


Our sensitive heart can act as a compass with which God gives us direction.  This is something that, hopefully, our husbands recognize and honor.  It is a beautiful compliment to the drive, strength, and stamina that they have innate within them.  (Of course, this isn’t to say that these attributes are mutually exclusive, but that as a matter of personal observation, seem to come more easily and with more prominence to husbands and wives as I have described.)

But, with such sensitive hearts, I think some might have concern that we make decisions based solely on our emotions.  I know that when I first felt this call to adopt a child with special needs, and after I had wrestled with it during one fateful night and was left with a firm belief that this was from God, I was in a panic.  This is no exaggeration.  I felt like we should move on it at that moment, and work as quickly as possible.  But Ryan had reservations.  Something I decided to do was to fast from those things that would pull at my heart, that would give me a sense of urgency or emotion regarding adoption and orphans.  So I avoided Reece’s Rainbow, adoption/orphan advocacy blogs, and even certain music.  I let Ryan know that I was doing this, as an exercise to test my sincerity and the authenticity of Christ’s calling for us.

So, I would say this: when approaching the subject of adoption with a reluctant husband, do justice to the inclination of your heart, but take measures to temper any overwhelming emotions.  Doing so helps both spouses be confident that prudence (“the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it”) is being exercised.

I believe that this first step is important for both spouses, but I think it is particularly important for husbands because it gives them confidence that we aren’t just riding our emotions and attempting to make major life decisions in the process.

We must be mindful that husbands will typically approach family decisions with a “provider and protector” mentality.  They often feel the weight of ensuring that all family members are well cared for in all circumstances: physically, through such things as food, shelter, and healthcare; and emotionally, are the needs of a new child, especially one with medical diagnoses, or a difficult social history, going to negatively effect us or our other children? Could it cause serious strain on our marriage?  These are valid concerns that need to be explored.

It is a good husband, father, and head of household who attends to these questions, so I would say: thank your husband for providing for and protecting your family.  Together, consider the effects adoption could have on your marriage and family life, and do so with candor and with prayer. 

The candor part is important.  There have been times when I have thought that we were putting off adopting again because Ryan wanted more time to put into his business.  If we adopted, he would need to return to contracting sooner than we had planned, which I knew he didn’t want to have to do, but I wasn’t sure that was reason enough to delay.  It was only after a couple of candid conversations, during which I gained more insight into not just his business, but the climate of his entire field of work, that I understood his hesitance.  And even though it wasn’t what I really wanted to hear, I knew that his desire to wait a bit longer was more reasonable than I had originally thought, which helped me to accept it.

And of course, the prayer part is important as well.  Without a focus on God and an outpouring of His grace, we would almost certainly tend towards our own comfort and self-preservation.  We must always keep before us God’s model of love, generosity and adoption, through which we become His sons and daughters and partake in His saving act.

By being vigilant in our prayer we can prudently discern adoption, giving proper weight to the practical concerns of marriage and family life, but infused with supernatural grace which inspires us in generous self-sacrifice.

Honestly, without God, I am not sure many couples would find reason to adopt, least of all a child with special needs.  And any child from a foreign country or from foster care, is truly a child with a special need, even if it is not a certain diagnosis or social history.

Lastly, I think an important part of such discernment is education. We must have eyes wide open, both to the potential effects of adoption on our lives as well as to the plight of the children who wait. We need to view, as fully as possible, both sides because they temper one another.  The preservation of a healthy and holy family life is important, but the stakes for an orphaned child are dire and should receive due consideration.

It is important to be exposed to the challenges that a family can encounter when adopting a child with a medical condition, or who grew up in an orphanage, or has some other traumatic social history.

On the flip side, I think it is also important for both husband and wife to know about the dire need of orphans all over the world.  It is much easier to say “no” or even “not now” to adoption when you think of these children in the abstract.  Perhaps something like this:


But they are real, flesh and blood, created in God’s image and likeness.  They have names, and they are alone, often hungry and neglected.  Many are dying.







Real children.  Encourage the reluctant husband to meet them, as best he can through a screen, not for emotionalism, but so that his heart is stretched, so that he is aware of the ones who wait.  Their reality should test our conscience if we discern a “no” or “not yet.”  There are many sound reasons not to adopt, but I think every family, especially every Christian family, should periodically revisit the idea of adoption.  We need to get out of our comfort zones and do the difficult work of discernment. When it comes to the question, “Can we adopt a child?”, millions of children are waiting to hear our answer, so if we say “no” or “not yet”, we should be sure to have good reason.

Paul in the orphanage, 9/2012

Paul in the orphanage, 9/2012

Paul, home for less than a year

Paul, home for less than a year


Paul, home 3.5 yrs.


Here are some links to others who have reflected on this topic (disclaimer: I have not read all of these, they were just suggested to me).  I hope to discover some more posts to share soon!

No Greater Joy Dad: Reluctant Husband Syndrome Series
A Reluctant Husband Adopts
When Your Spouse Doesn’t Want to Adopt

On mysteries.

I’ve seen this article shared before.  It’s about a teenaged girl with Down Syndrome who has a goal of serving Mass in every state.  In it, the girl says, “All I want is to be a saint.”

Reading those words makes me think a little deeper about Paul.  There’s a lot more within him than we can see from the outside.  He is, in a way, “trapped” by his inability to talk, and even by his poor fine motor skills.  And sure, maybe this girl is less delayed than he is, and she probably doesn’t have autism like he does, and obviously, she is older than him.  But the truth remains that Paul has deeper thoughts and feelings than he can express.   He is, in a sense, a mystery.

I have to try to remember this, even in daily tasks, but I fail an awful lot. Like when I let Ben choose which color cup he wants, and then just hand Paul whatever is left or when Ben chooses the music in the car and not giving Paul a turn to pick.

I know he can’t exactly tell me what he wants in every situation, and he seems content with any cup or music, but I should still ask.  He’s made it clear he has opinions and preferences and I should honor that.  I cringe to think of the feelings he may have that he can’t express- maybe he’s been jealous, or resentful, or hurt, but I just kept on with my day.

But more than just the mundane tasks of each day, this article makes me think of the holy mysteries that permeate life.  I believe Paul to be a naturally spiritual person, as children tend to be- he participates when we pray, attends at Mass (as much as any young child), clearly prefers Marian hymns to other music, and Brother Francis is his favorite show.  Some of this has to do with familiarity for him, but we ought not discount his “popular piety,” because these things can be instruments of grace and a source of true enjoyment and sanctification, not just routine.

The yearnings of our heart, our desire for our Creator and for holiness, do not need eloquent words or even an intelligent mind* to be fervent.  The soul is deep and transcends beyond the material limitations of our bodies.  Paul is called to be a saint, and not by some incidental means (like assuming he doesn’t have the capacity to sin), but by virtue of his creation in God’s image, his baptism into new life, and even just the nature of being a human being.

As Paul ages, I’ll try to keep the “holy mysteries” and Paul’s own mystery in my mind.  I don’t want to assume that he doesn’t know or understand things; I don’t want to assume he has no desire to participate and serve as he is able; I don’t want to assume he doesn’t know about or desire to be a saint.



*This is not a statement about Paul.