Monday, June 26, 2006

Church Picnic

Sunday was another full day for the kids. The weather was gorgeous and we started the day with church in a pasture. It was lovely. Our church held a service at a Conservation Area, with a picnic and games that followed. It was so pretty and perfectly shaded.

We brought a blanket and the kids made me very proud by sitting with us semi-quietly throughout most of the service. The morning did not go without some predictable antics; Will stole all the straws from our neighbours' drink boxes that were left within his line of sight, Jake came back from the dessert table with his 4th cupcake claiming "I'm really sorry, Mom, but there were no more good pieces of watermelon so I had to have another cupcake" and Owen stimmed and squealed through all the serious parts in prayer. Our minister made an announcement to the congregation, wishing our family well on our future in Calgary. I was emotional (as always) and especially touched because of everything that our church has done for our family. Most people are not even aware of what role it has played in our lives.

When I first learned that I was expecting the twins and had Jake only having just turned one, I was very fearful of what was to come. I approached the Parrish Nurse, Beth, asking if she could help me connect with some resources.. I was looking for babysitters, etc. When the twins did arrive, Beth was a blessing. She checked in on me in those early days when I thought I was going to lose my mind in the stress that comes with three babies under two, 2 hours of sleep a night and the sound of crying blaring 24/7. Beth brought us more than enough meals to keep us well fed and her calming, positive attitude was exactly what was needed at the time.

When the boys were diagnosed with autism, Beth was one of the first people I called. It was in our effort to reach out to people who may offer some suggestions for resources and what I got in return was a lifeline. Beth sat through our tears, heard us talk through our fear of the future and came up with ideas on how to move forward. She connected us with Diane at the nursery school (for which I'll ever be grateful), she offered to coordinate support meetings for our friends and family to attend and the most generous offer of all is that after getting the approval of the church committees and David, our minister, she helped to provide us with a location for us to accomodate having the boys' IBI therapy. Our small house could not accomodate it and it would cost much more dearly if the boys had to go to a centre-based therapy programme. Our church became Owen and Will's second home. Nursery school took place every morning in the upper floors of the church, then the boys' therapists picked them up and walked them to the basement for their therapy.

What a gift. You can't ask for much more when you are looking for a safe place for your children to be when they are not at home with you. Every morning I would drop the kids off at church, oftentimes with Jake who enjoyed the routine as much as we all did. Helen would buzz us in the doors with a smile and we could count on Owen and Will to stick with routine and make a beeline for the room with the piano, regardless if it was filled with a bible study group or not. The boys barely looked back once they went through the doors and I felt secure in knowing that the "eyes and ears" of my church home were watching out for the boys. Jake and I could stop in for a quick visit with Beth in her office, where she let her buddy Jake colour and write on as many post-it notes as he wanted while I yakked her ear off with updates on where we were at in our life. On our way out, we would stop in to visit with Helen, the church secretary, who would offer Jake his candy, and show off pictures of her grandchildren proudly. Our minister, David, would poke his head out of the office for a chat and the day always felt right when we had them start off like that. I can't tell you how much I'll miss these mornings.

Our church has really been like a home. We got to see the nooks and crannies and parts of it that not everyone gets to see, from the basement -- up. Jake could run about and do his own thing and the twins looked like they were at home. We never felt judged. We never felt embarrassed of what kind of attention we were attracting with the boys' quirky behaviours. Every single person has been kind to us. From the church, we were connected with some amazing people who I suspect we will keep close to us for our entire lives... Regardless of your faith, or your dedication to showing up every Sunday, or how many church committees you join or how many functions you volunteer at, our experience with our church has shown me that just being neighbourly, or compassionate and non-judgemental is a kindness that can change a person (or family's) life. Our experience here has made me proud that we made the decision to join this congregation five years ago, because my children are learning these values from everyone we've met here.

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