Monthly Archives: November 2016

helping hands

Our foster care application for an infant with special needs

Today I received a voice text from a friend who commented on how it seems that something is leading us in the direction of helping newborn infants with Trisomy 21 whose families don’t want to keep them.

She was referring to my involvement with Baby M in addition to my posting several days ago on Facebook about another baby girl with T21 who was waiting in the hospital for a foster family.  In that case, I was contacted by four different people within a short period and was in contact with a social worker who verified that baby happily has found a home.

I’ve heard it said that you don’t choose your mission but that your mission chooses you.  I can’t say that this is my mission.  I certainly haven’t sought it out.  But it’s interesting that these situations came to me without me soliciting them in any way.  For whatever reason, different people thought that we could be of help, though I never indicated any specific interest or desire to do this.

My lack of expressed interest about it wasn’t due to a concern or willingness.  In fact, it was two days before someone called us about Baby M, after weeks of discussion with my husband and children, that I spoke with a foster care agency representative and told them we wanted to apply as a foster family for an infant with T21.  No one who contacted me knew anything about that, though!

I don’t like to talk about things until there’s something to talk about and hence haven’t shared about this.  However, the application process has have been humming along in the background, and I decided today to share this with you.

The application process to become a foster parent takes about 3 – 4 months.  At the end of last week we completed our foster care application for children with special needs.   (This is a different track than fostering children who don’t have special needs.)  In Israel, fostering a child with special needs is a long term commitment – until the age of 21.

The application process included medical checks, bloodwork, extensive paperwork, criminal checks on everyone in our family over the age of 18, and several visits by a social worker to our home (including meeting with our youngest six children and discussing fostering with them) and a tour of our home.

The meetings with the social worker were pleasant and she told us at the end of our final visit that it had been very inspiring for her to  meet us.  Which was of course nice to hear but trying to impress her wasn’t something we set out to do.  I think she got an accurate idea of who we are and how we parent, and I’m glad of that.  (She also told me she can’t understand how I don’t have a clothes dryer and every time she does laundry for her two children she now thinks of me! :))

She asked each child their thoughts on fostering.  Ds7 told her it would be nice to have another person in our family.  “But you have so many people in your family already,” she protested.  Ds7: “It’s not so many – it feels like we’re a pretty small family!” :)  It really does feel like that to us sometimes!

At this point we’re waiting for the final approval of our application, which we were told to expect will take 2 – 4 weeks.  My younger kids have asked several times, “When are we getting a baby???” and I’ve explained to them it’s not like a store that has babies stocked and you pick one off the shelf!  If a baby is born who matches our profile, we’ll be contacted.  This could take a very short or very long time.

I don’t feel any urgency about this.  We’ve done what we can to be positioned to help if there’s an opportunity to help, in a way that is aligned with our values.  If our help in this way is called upon or not  isn’t up to us!  My preference is that every child with T21 will be born to a family who will love and cherish him – that would clearly be the best scenario.  I’d really rather not be needed!

If it does happen that there’s a situation in which there’s an infant who needs a home and we’re able to offer that, then of course you’ll hear about it.  But don’t wait with bated breath – as I said, it could be a long time!

Avivah

The thrill of being at the top!

Our new double bunk beds – look what our kids built!

I’ve been meaning to share with you about our latest upgrade in furniture – a double set of bunk beds!

Here’s what inspired this project:

Our three younger boys share a room.  There were two beds in their room and one of the boys slept on a trundle that pulls out.  The only problem with this scenario was the trundle wasn’t regularly getting pushed back in each morning and when it was left out, it made the room look crowded and attracted clutter.

I wanted to have more floor space, increase sleeping space and make it easier for the boys to keep their room tidy without as much help from me.  So I decided to replace each of the twin beds with a bunk bed.

And then I decided we’d build them ourselves!

I looked online for plans and chose to adapt the plans I found on ana-white.com; ds17 modified the plans according to my specifications.

Before - the pile of wood waiting to be transformed!

Before – the pile of wood waiting to be transformed!

Starting to cut the pile down to size.

Starting to cut the pile down to size.

The day wore on and cutting all the boards seemed endless.  Finally the wood was cut and they could get started putting everything together.   The sun set, night began to fall and they were still working.

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Ds4 took a nice long afternoon nap so when ds10, ds9 and ds7 were in bed he was wide awake and ready to help out!

Ds4 excited about getting to help build!

Ds4 excited about getting to help build!

In our home, tools aren’t for for staged photo shoots  – our kids learn to use them with supervision.

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Ds4 then moved on to screw together the section dd20 was working on.

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It was pretty exciting to see the sides taking shape!

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When we put them together in the boys’s room, they could hardly wait to climb up on them!

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The bunk beds are sturdy and well-built.  We’ve freed up a significant amount of floor space, made clean-up much easier – and now that there’s a fourth bed, ds4 sleeps in this room, too!

"Hey, what are they doing up there?"

“Hey, what are they doing up there?”

The thrill of being at the top!

The thrill of being at the top!

Note ds10 on the left - he was there all along, reading his book.

Note ds10 on the left – he was there all along reading his book

The beds are sized to fit our growing boys who will probably be in the 6′ range – ds17 added extra headroom between the bottom and top bunks so that an adult can sit there comfortably.  This resulted in taller than usual bunk beds but we have high ceilings and there’s still comfortable head space for the child on top.

I wanted to maximize the space under the beds, and asked ds17 to adapt the plans so that the bottom bunk would be high enough for a trundle bed to fit underneath.  We planned to build a trundle as a later project but then I had a brainstorm – we could cut  down their previous bed (that I was planning to sell) and then use it as a trundle. Since that bed had a trundle that includes three built-in storage drawers we now have two trundles plus the storage space!  Amazing how it all fits there, isn’t it?!  The wood is a slightly different shade than the bunk beds but I decided not to be a perfectionist.  :) These two additional beds will be very helpful when we have extra people sleeping over.

We’re all happy with how the bunk beds turned out.  I’m especially glad we could adapt our space to make it work better for our needs and simultaneously create an empowering learning experience for our children. This was a big project that took a couple of days to complete; all the kids (not just those in the pictures) were involved in the cutting, assembly and staining of these beds.  And everyone has a tangible sense of accomplishment and appreciation now that they’re finished!

Avivah

happy birthday

Celebrating my birthday with my first webinar launch – join me!

Today is my birthday.  And it feels significant.

It’s been two years since I shared – also on my birthday – about my deep sense of exhaustion and depletion following the three years of challenge after challenge that followed our move from the US to Israel in 2011.  About my lack of energy or desire to do anything.  About my fear that I would never have any motivation to do anything again.

After moving to Israel, not only did I lose my support network and years of social collateral, but I lost myself.  Really, really lost myself.  I was so consumed with trying to hold my family together through all the upheaval and changes – and I did a really good job of that.  But my underlying sense of who I was, my confidence and belief in myself, my sense of belonging and identification were so seriously challenged by the transition to a different culture and everything we went through that I emotionally kind of climbed into a cave to regroup. And because the cave felt so safe, I contemplated just staying there.

But you know, fear grows in the dark.  So as safe as it was, it didn’t feel good.  I knew I was avoiding being who I was put in the world to be and that feeling kept pushing its way toward the surface.  I would push it down again and again, and it would keep pushing back up.  Finally after my birthday a couple of years ago, I knew it was time to stop making excuses to myself and to take some baby steps in a new direction.

It’s been an amazing two year journey from where I was to where I am now. It’s been a process of learning to love and nurture myself at a deeper level, reclaiming and owning my gifts and abilities, moving from the emotional safety of staying out of the light and being willing to show up as my true self in the world.

It hasn’t been easy.  I’ve had to build and strengthen spiritual muscles, some of which I let atrophy and others I didn’t know existed at all. These spiritual disciplines have taken consistent consciousness and effort to maintain, and there remains lots of room for growth.  Yet I look at my life after these two years and marvel at how much better it is in every way – I’m healthier, I’m calmer, I feel more at peace with myself and the world around me.  It’s because of all this inner work that I’m now able to share myself and my parenting approach in a broader way despite what sometimes feels uncomfortable.

And it’s so incredibly appropriate that tonight, on my birthday, I’m launching my first Leadership Parenting webinar ever.  As much as my intent is to be of maximum service to you, it’s also a gift to myself to share my roadmap for building a strong and connected family.  I truly believe that no matter where you are coming from, no matter how hard your background or how much you’re struggling right now as a parent, you can learn to be compassionate and kind and powerful and influential in your family – to be an effective leader – from a place of love for your children and for yourself.

So I invite you to join me on this 16 week Leadership Parenting training workshop series.  It will be a journey of self-discovery and insight, along with practical suggestions on how to apply leadership concepts in your daily parenting.  The webinars will be accessible by computer and by phone, taking place live on Sunday nights (Israel), 8:30 – 10 pm/ 1:30 – 3 pm EST.  The first hour is my presentation and the remaining thirty minutes is for your questions.  If the timing doesn’t work for you, you can still participate at your own convenience by watching or listening to the recordings.

To join, all you need to do is send $200 via Paypal to avivahwerner@yahoo.com.  I’ll email you a confirmation along with a link to register.  Once you complete that, you’ll automatically be sent an email with details to access the webinars and after each webinar, you’ll receive a link to access the recording.

I’m looking forward to this shared journey of exploration and learning with you!

Avivah

Introducing- first ever Leadership Parenting webinar series – beginning soon!

You’ve been asking and I’ve been listening!

You know that I give Leadership Parenting training courses locally and you’ve asked me about making it available for those who can’t attend in person.  Not being a person who quickly embraces new technologies, it’s taken me some time to make this happen – but it’s happening now!

My new Leadership Parenting course begins tonight in RBS – and beginning this Sunday,  November 13, my first webinar series will launch!

What is Leadership Parenting and how does it benefit you?

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Leadership Parenting is an insight-based approach that will simultaneously challenge you to question widespread beliefs about parenting as well as enable you to address the concerns you and your child are struggling with at the core level.

It answers the question: How can you most effectively and powerfully influence your child?

Leadership Parenting empowers you to shift your parenting efforts from managing behaviors to creating an environment in which you and your child can become more connected, more respectful and more productive.

Leadership Parenting will also provide you with guidelines and practical suggestions to address challenging situations – bedtimes, mealtimes, disrespect, tantrums, defiance, and the out of control child. Whether your home life is overall good and you just want to make it better, or you’re struggling daily with every aspect of parenting, Leadership Parenting will give you a new pair of glasses to view parenting with, along with guidance as to how to apply and integrate this powerful paradigm into your life.

This class series will be 16 weeks long.  Classes are held on Sundays, 8:30 – 10 pm (Israel); 1:30 – 3 pm (EST).  Each class is an hour, followed by up to 30 minutes of questions and answers. I want everyone parent who is interested in making a significant shift in her family to be able to access this information, so the entire course is priced at just $200!  **

If you’re interested in participating, please send $200 via Paypal to avivahwerner@yahoo.com.  I will be in touch with you to confirm payment and will send you a link to register for the webinar.  Once you have registered, you will receive an email with information on how to access the webinar via your computer, iphone or landline.  **Edited to add: The classes will be recorded and available for viewing/listening afterward.**  If you have questions about this course, please ask them in the comments below since it’s likely others will have the same question!

While I’m a bit nervous about the new technology, I’m really excited to be able to share with you some of what has made my own life as a parent so rewarding and meaningful!

Avivah

**(There will be two partial scholarships available for this course – if you aren’t able to afford the full fee, please contact me directly via email – avivahwerner@yahoo.com.)

inclusion

Why being included is lots better than being ‘special’

We had a visitor recently who works in special ed in the US. She was going crazy over ds4 – she couldn’t keep her eyes off of him in shul on Simchas Torah- and later on she couldn’t stop talking about how ‘special’ he was.

‘Special’ is a word that I don’t particularly care for so I asked her what she meant.  She seemed taken aback – ‘you can’t see that he’s special?”  “All my kids are special,” I responded.  “What’s special about Yirmi?”

She told me she works with many kids with Trisomy 21 of different ages and he’s not typical of kids with that diagnosis.  She said he acts like a typical kid, he’s so ‘with it’ and ‘so smart’. Okay, that kind of special I can agree with.  :)

Well, that launched a long talk (monologue? :)) on my opinion about why Yirmi is the way he is and why inclusion is critical and why special ed is not so special and how at least 80% of kids with T21 could be doing just as well or better than him if they had proper support.  She was fascinated by my perspective.  But she apparently had never met a parent with my outlook, because she asked me a few times in disbelief, “You really believe that how he is being raised made the difference?  And you don’t think he would be better off in special ed with professionals?”

Yes, I know that how a child is raised affects his brain development.  Yes, our home environment is critical to supporting his development.  No, I don’t think we’re remarkable or have done anything that couldn’t easily be replicated by others.  No, I don’t think he would be better off in a special ed setting.  I don’t think anyone is better off in a special ed setting than with appropriate and well-mediated inclusion.

Yirmi is being raised in a family where he’s one of the gang.  He’s expected to act appropriately, to express himself, to be helpful and kind – the same as we expect of any of our children. We assume he will develop on his own timeline and while we give him support and encouragement, we don’t pressure him – just like our other kids.  Being treated like everyone else is really important and I think this is a huge factor in how well Yirmi is doing.

Everyone wants to belong.  Everyone wants to be part of.  No one wants to be ‘special’.  I firmly believe that the more we treat others with compassion, acceptance, appreciation and inclusion, the better the outcome is for all of us.  Not only does each individual child flourish in that environment, it makes the world a much kinder, gentler and more beautiful world to live in – for all of us.

Avivah