Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday's Making a Difference

Today’s “Making a Difference” is unlikely suspect, one of Brielle’s doctors!
“Dr. K” has been Brielle’s chiropractor for the last three and half years. Shortly after we moved to the Atlanta area four years ago, I read an article in the community newspaper about a local chiropractor who was working with a disabled teenage boy. Finding a chiropractor who has experience and confidence working with Brielle’s physical impairments is difficult, so I knew this could be an opportunity for a “good fit”.

Brielle has received chiropractic care since she was a toddler. It truly made a big difference in her digestive tract and physical abilities. Even her physical therapist can tell a difference when she has had a recent adjustment. Therefore, chiropractic treatments continue to be part of her routine care.

We visit “Dr. K” every other week, just hours before her physical therapy appointment. At one time or another, “Dr. K” has treated each member of our family, even the skeptics in my crew!

"Dr. K. and his wife
"Dr. K." with Brielle
at Special Olympics Winter games
January 2009
However, “Dr. K” is more than just our chiropractor, he has become our friend and our lives have become intermingled than most doctors and patients. His wife often works as his receptionist, so I have come to know her as well and stay in touch with her on a social media website. His wife shared her experiences homeschooling their children and was an encouragement for me to start homeschooling Brielle. His wife invited a few friends over one Super Bowl to have a wife’s night out and I felt honored to be included. Two years ago, I taught their daughter a song in sign language, which she performed at their church in their hometown. “Dr. K” and his family even showed up at Brielle’s Special Olympics bowling tournament the first winter we knew them.
“Come on in, Stulls. What’s been happening?” he greets us at each visit. While he adjusts Brielle, we talk about our families and life events. We have been a support to one another as we’ve gone through the highs and lows of life. Throughout it all, we share our stories of faith and devotion to God. His unwavering devotion to his faith as head of his family is an encouragement to me at every visit.
"Dr. K" and his family being silly
“Dr. K” is patient and engaging with Brielle. He talks directly to her and is genuinely interested in hearing her stories laughing at her silly ways. He has a great sense of humor and not afraid to be silly right back at her. He always puts his arm around Brielle to tell her good-bye and, inevitably, Brielle signs, “Dr. K is nice to me” as we walk out of his office.

Thank you, Dr. K., for your care, compassion and friendship!
"Dr. K" with Brielle
April 2012
One more note: When I got my tattoo, I was terribly afraid I would get a lecture from “Dr. K.” How could I get that big tattoo right up my spine and NOT expect a lecture from my chiropractor? But, he didn’t lecture me at all! He seemed truly excited and proud of me for being so brave. He even took a picture to make sure his wife saw it. Whew! Thanks for that show of grace and kindness, "Dr. K."! -- To read more about my tattoo (and see it), go to:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Our Great Experiment

A few months, a friend told me about a project she is part of that really piqued my interest. The group was making lists of things they wanted to do in their life, not exactly like a “Bucket List” but similar to that. Instead of only wild things they wanted to accomplish, like skydiving or bungee jumping, each made a list of somewhat more simple things they wanted to do. Each shared their list and helped one another accomplish their goals if possible.  

I went to their website to read what it was all about and started my own list. One of the things on my list was to paint a picture with my dad, which I accomplished on my visit to see my parents in Washington in early February. Another item on my list was to spend a day without any technology. Yesterday was my day and what a day it was! 

Brian was at work all morning, played golf in the afternoon, and then headed to a hotel that evening (he had a sprint triathlon near the hotel early the next day). Ashley was at school all day, had an activity in the afternoon, and planned to spend the night at a friend’s house. Each had made their plans before I thought about doing our technology-free day. So, it was just me and Brielle with no disruptions to Brian and Ashley’s routine. 
We started at seven in the morning. However, before we started, I brewed my coffee (no I wasn’t giving up all technology AND my coffee!) and checked e-mails and the social networking site I often go on. Then, our adventure began! 

What we went without:
-      All high tech items such as the computer, MP3 players, cell phones, and my notebook
-      Appliances such as the stove, oven, microwave, and all portable appliances (no, I didn’t turn off the freezer, refrigerator or water heater!)
-      Anything electric such as lights (I had to put painters tape over switched just to remind me) and AC (that got tough around 4pm when the temperature inside the house reached 80 degrees)
-      Anything that used batteries such as land line telephones and even our electric toothbrushes

Our “cheats”:
-      My camera and camcorder (I just HAD to document the day!)
-      A flashlight at night when we camped in the backyard (for safety!)

What we did all day:
-      I read the paper with my coffee instead of watching news show in TV and browsing the Internet.
-      Our usual homeschooling routine most of the morning.
-      Sat on the back deck. Brielle wrote in her notebook, colored and practiced math facts with her flash cards while I stamped/sealed Ashley’s graduation announcements (she had done everything else in the weeks before), wrote in my journal (I was months behind and had PLENTY to write), and wrote letters/card to five friends (another item on my “list” is to write a letter to one friend each week and I was behind on that).
-      After lunch, we played together. We put together puzzles, played “Go Fish” and other card games, and played dice games (adding, subtracting, and comparing the numbers of each roll).
-      I cleaned the house, which is my usual Friday routine (although I vacuumed the day before).
-      We read a few chapters together in a new book in her favorite puppy series.
-      Late in the afternoon, we put up the two-man tent my sister-in-law gave the girls over 10 years ago. (Thanks, Tracy!) We planned to camp out in the backyard that night but watched the darkening sky carefully.
-      I read a new book from my favorite author (Jennifer Chiaverini - She writes generational stories about quilting often set in historical times - I read the first few chapters of her 18th book!) and sipped wine (couldn’t do without that!) while Brielle looked through her teen magazines.
-      After dinner, we got ready for our campout and headed out back to the tent since there had only been a few sprinkles and the sky was clearing up.
-      We slept outside in the tent! Our dog, Cooper, loved it as much as Brielle did! (I was terribly uncomfortable all night even though we had lined the tent floor with pillows as our mattress)
-      We woke up around 6am to the sounds of birds, goats (a nearby neighbor has about 10), and barking dogs.
-      We were in the house and anxious to go back to our technology items at 7am. 

When we got back to technology, I had missed two calls on the landline, had 11 new emails, one message and 13 notifications on a social networking site, no texts, and no missed calls on my cell phone. Life went on without us being plugged into it!

What we learned about a day without any technology:
-      It takes a little planning. The day before, I printed out her math worksheets, vacuumed, made sure we had plenty of things to keep us busy, and prepared my friends and family.
-      We missed technology more and less than I thought. I didn’t realize how much we use technology. I go on the computer to check the calendar and look up simple things, even to check the spelling of words. I text little notes to family and friends while I’m thinking of them and I just had to make a list of things to contact people about later. I had to do math by hand (eek!) instead of using a calculator.
-      We use technology automatically. I had to put painters tape over the light switches or I would have flicked them on without a thought. Some tasks were difficult without lights such as accessing our homeschooling supplies in the windowless laundry room and cleaning the house especially dark hallways and bathrooms. In addition, I realized lights just add a sense of warmth and not feeling alone. I hadn’t expected those feelings.
-      Our senses were heightened. The house was incredibly quiet without the white noise of the fan on the computer, the sounds of the washing machine, dryer, or dishwasher, or just the constant “clatter” of the TV or radio being on as background noise. Instead, we heard birds, bugs, cars, lawn mowers, wind in the trees, kids laughing as they got off the school bus, and ice dropping in the freezer. We even smelled the blooming trees and bushes in our yard and a neighbor doing laundry through the open windows.
-      We stayed busy. At first, I was antsy. But, then we settled in and only got a little bored late in the day. There’s plenty to do without technology!
-      We slowed down and appreciated quiet time. It was amazing just how relaxed I felt as the day went on. No rushing from one thing to another. I even read aloud to Brielle at a slower pace than I usually do without noticing at first!
-      It can be done and it can be fun! We had a great day together.

Will we do it again? Yes! However, I think next time we won’t go quite as extreme. A day without the interruptions and time sucking qualities that the computer, phones, TVs, and MP3 players have would still give us a great break from our usual hectic days. I highly recommend a day without technology, no matter how extreme you go!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday's Making a Difference

Today’s “Making a Difference” is someone who has been part of our family’s lives for 11 years. When I think of the people that have had the biggest impact on our family, "Miss D" is near the top of the list.

We’ve had a complicated relationship with “Miss D” over the years.  She was Ashley’s second grade teacher and Brielle’s first grade teacher. She tutored Brielle for many years and taught our whole family sign language, too.

She “babysat” our girls when Brian and I would go out of town for a week and even took on the task of caring for our new puppy while we were out of town. On several occasions when she went out of town, her little dog bravely endured the company of our pesky puppy when we “dog-sat” for her.

We were in Book Club together, went on double dates, and spent some holidays together, too. I helped her make her final decision when she bought her first home and read a Bible verse at her wedding.

“Miss D” knows Brielle probably better than anyone else ever has. She was never shy about telling me the truth about Brielle even when it was something I didn’t want to hear. I trusted her opinion and followed her advice more often than not. Her dedication to the well-being of our family over the years has been invaluable.

More than all of that, “Miss D” is our friend. Despite moving away six years ago from the Austin, Texas area where she still lives, we have kept in touch. “Miss D” is always on our list of people we must spend time with when we visit Austin. When Brielle “chats” with her on a social networking site, “Miss D” is quick to reply and always knows how to engage Brielle in a way she will understand.

“Miss D” is now married with two adorable boys. Although we have different parenting styles, I am so proud of the way she devotes herself to her family and works to make every day a fun, learning experience for her young boys.

“Miss D” has left a legacy for our family. We know sign language largely because of her. Brielle is where she is academically because of how she taught Brielle and how she instilled confidence in me that Brielle could learn more than others thought. Because of her influence, “Miss D” continues to make a difference in our lives every day.

You can be sure that I will mention “Miss D” frequently in the book I am writing!

I know I have told her how much we have appreciated her over the years. “Miss D” is not one to accept praise or gratitude very well. Nevertheless, “Miss D”, you’re awesome and we love you!

Miss D is a fellow blogger. She writes an awesome blog! Check it out!

(Sorry, “Miss D.” I know you have been married for almost six years and you have a first name, but you will always be “Miss D” to our family!)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Home Alone!

I NEVER get to be home alone, but today I did! Unfortunately, part of the reason was because I am sick. Nothing serious, just a cold.

Since I wasn’t feeling well, Brian took Brielle to her Miracle League baseball game. With Ashley out with friends, I was alone for at for a few hours for the first time in months.

Now that I homeschool Brielle, she is almost always with me. The only time I go somewhere without her is when Brian and I get a date night or when I go to a friend’s house once a month to scrapbook for the day. So, today was a unique day indeed!

It was so strange to be home alone. What did I do???? Took a shower and stretched out on the sofa with a blanket watching TV. Exciting, huh? Actually, it felt pretty lonely.

As for being lonely, I thought I would share a small excerpt from the first chapter of the book I am writing. The chapter is about things readers should know about Brielle and me. This is one thing readers should know about me:

“I am lonely.

My job as mother and homeschool parent to Brielle has created a life of solitude that makes me uncomfortable. I have few environments where I can truly connect with others. I feel like an outsider in so many circumstances. Our lives are so different from others. I feel like no one around me really understands me and what I go through on a daily basis just to keep up with what life has given us. No matter how well-meaning people try to be, I still feel alone.”

Being alone today was nice, but it made me realize it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I love my family and the house only feels like home when they are here with me.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday's Making a Difference

Last week I shared how “A” and “R” make a difference at our Thursday lunches. This week is about “A’s” daughter, “J”.

Brielle and “J” met at our Thursday lunches with “A” and “R” over the summer two years ago when all of the kids were home from school. However, it wasn’t until “J” was going through a tough time a little over a year ago that “J” and Brielle really connected.

Brielle became “J’s” pen pals. Brielle wrote “J” letters several times a week and sent her little gifts and drawings to lift her spirits. “J” was part of our list of people we prayed for each morning during our devotion time. Brielle came to love “J” and looked forward to every chance she had to write to her.

Getting a letter back from "J" was a special treat. "J" painted a picture of the sign for "I love you" in Brielle's favorite colors. Brielle has it proudly hanging in her room next to a picture of them together.

Last summer, “J” told me that she wanted to learn sign language, so I started tutoring her. She was a fast learner and practiced her new signing skills with Brielle. After each tutoring session, “J” spent time with Brielle. They watched movies or played video games.  “J” just accepted Brielle without any hesitation. It was beautiful to watch them together.

“J” also began babysitting Brielle from time to time. “J” is so patient with Brielle. She plays with Brielle and does whatever Brielle wants to do when they are together even if that means watching the same video over and over again.

“J” sends little messages to Brielle on a social networking site and posts silly pictures of them together. "J" loves that cute little white kitty character. Brielle points it out in stores wherever we go and signs "That's 'J's' favorite". Brielle loves wearing her PJ's with that little white kitty character every time "J" comes over to babysit.

Even though “J” is a year younger than Brielle (almost to the day!), the two have really bonded and they are just buds. “J” is such a blessing to Brielle and I am happy she is part of our lives!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Play Ball!

It’s baseball season again for Brielle! Brielle has been playing baseball with Miracle League since she was about seven years. She played in Austin, Toledo and now in a northern suburb of Atlanta.

Miracle League baseball is wonderful opportunity for kids who are disabled to play baseball like other kids. They play on a field that is made of a special rubber surface that is flat to allow kids who use wheelchairs or walkers to move smoothly over the bases.

Even if it takes a player 10 or 15 pitches (or more!) to hit the ball, they are given the chance to swing. Each team gets to hit twice and the last batter always gets a “homerun”. There are no winners or losers. The game always ends in a tie.

The spectators clap and cheer wildly for every player. The supportive environment is like none I have ever seen. In the age of poor sportsmanship by parents and sometimes even violence, it is wonderful to see how encouraging the Miracle League spectators can truly be.

Each player has a “buddy” who helps them and makes sure they are safe as balls fly out to them. These volunteers are often teenagers who play sports together. The players love to interact with the buddies. However, the real “winners” are the volunteerss who get a chance to experience something special by helping children with disabilities. I am quite certain that they walk away with a different attitude about sports after spending time with our players.

Brielle has been with the same team and players for the last four years. We have watched them all grow up and go through changes. The team spirit they have is awesome to watch.

The bonus? Brielle’s team is the Cardinals! (our favorite Major League team) Go Cards!

For more information about Miracle League, go to:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday's Making a Difference

Today’s “Making a Difference” person is actually two people.

I met “R” almost four years ago when we moved to the Atlanta area. I picked her name off of the internet to be my scrapbook supplies consultant simply because she offered so many crops every month. It was just plain luck that I found her at all. She was so welcoming and friendly, it didn’t take long to get to know her.

"A" is on the left, "R" is in the middle.
May 2010
Six to nine months later, she invited me to join her and “A” at a sandwich shop for lunch. I remember thinking it was sort of out of the blue since we weren’t really “lunching” friends at that point. She said I had met “A” at crops (where a bunch of women get together and scrapbook together), but I did not remember her. It didn’t take me long to get to know “A” either. They invited me to join them for lunch the next week and Thursdays at the sandwich shop became our “usual thing”.
A year later, when I decided to homeschool Brielle, I asked if it was OK if I still met them for Thursday lunches even though I would now have Brielle in tow. “Of course she can come, too!” they practically said in harmony.

“R” and “A” were so welcoming to Brielle. “A” always greets Brielle with a hug. “R” always gives her special praises when Brielle wears a shirt with a “special mouse” (“R’s” favorite place on earth!). Talking about “the mouse” is sort of “their thing” and Brielle usually wants to wear one of her mouse shirts on Thursdays just for “R”.  

Through most of lunch, Brielle just silently munches on her ham and cheese sandwich. Nevertheless, I know “R” and “A” do not think of her as just being an appendage of me. I know they hold her in a special place. They demonstrate that at every meal.

"A" is on the left, "R" is standing next to me.
Ausut 2011
I have had Brielle tag along with me to lunches with friends many times now that we homeschool. What is so special is that they both speak directly to Brielle. They don’t look to me to interpret unless Brielle wants to tell a story. And Brielle usually wants to tell them a story at some point! They speak to her in age appropriate ways. They ask her questions and laugh at her silly ways. They have come to know Brielle and I know they truly love her.
Over sandwiches and chatter on those Thursdays, the four of us have developed a special bond. We share, laugh and sometimes cry. We have held one another up through our teenagers’ rebellions, illnesses, broken bones, medical procedures, and successes. We have supported one another as we complained about our husbands’ idiosyncrasies, their job losses, job changes, and moments of thoughtfulness to their wives and families. We have been there for each other through the life changes that three years of Thursdays sees. Their Christian love and support gives me strength and my time with them is usually the highlight of my week.

In recent months, for a variety of reasons, we have fallen out of the habit of getting together for Thursday lunches. I know it is temporary and I look forward to when our lunches together can continue.

“R” and “A” are huge blessings to my life and to Brielle’s in very special ways. I know that God made our paths cross for a reason.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Love Infinitely

A special wooden statue has sat on our living room mantle over the fireplace since we got more than five years ago. The name of the statue is “The Infinity Flame”. It has always intrigued me.

Almost since we got it, I have been thinking of getting it as a tattoo. It is completely out of character for me to want even want a tattoo, but somehow I still wanted it. Fear of the pain has kept me from getting it as a tattoo, until now....

Ashley turned 18 a month ago and had been thinking of getting a tattoo of the world’s continents on her foot. She has a passion for travel and will be studying Hospitality Management at college next fall. How fitting that she wanted “the world at her feet”.

So, we both mustered up the courage and got our tattoos today!

Ashley went first. I held her hand tightly and she winced for 45 minutes as the tattoo artist did his work.

I was so proud of her for being so brave! Then it was my turn...

Yes, it hurt... a lot.

Once the tattoo artist got the outline done on my back, I asked for a break. Within a matter of moments, I felt queasy. I laid my head to the side on the back of the chair... and then I passed out. Ugh.

It felt like I was out for 30 minutes, but Ashley said it was only for about 20 second. I felt so badly for scaring her like that. She was such a help putting a wet paper towel on my forehead and holding my hands. I drank some water and slowly ate a few crackers and felt much better within 15 minutes.

I was able to lie on my stomach to get the rest of it filled it. Less than three hours after we walked in, Ashley and I walked out with our new tattoos.

With the sign for “I love you” in the middle of the Infinity Flame, my tattoo has special meaning for me. I think of it as being titled “Love Infinitely”.  

It will always be part of me and a reminder of how to live my life.

It means respect, acceptance and show love always. How fitting is that!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday's Making a Difference

Many people make a difference in Brielle’s life in small ways that deserve a little recognition. Therefore, Mondays’ posts will be “Making a Difference” dedicated to highlighting some of those people. Although it is way for me to let each of them know how I appreciate their kindnesses, I hope that others will learn how little things do truly make a difference.

“A” has been our stylist for the last three and a half years (almost since our move to the Atlanta area). “A” does so many little things for Brielle other than just cut her hair every eight weeks. (And “A” does a fantastic job of doing cute, age appropriate styles for Brielle that still keeps her hair away from her face.)

First of all, “A” is incredibly patient with Brielle. Although Brielle is fairly cooperative when “A” cuts her hair, she can also be a little toot. However, “A” knows when Brielle tips her head down so she can snip the bottom, back of her hair, she has to move quickly and carefully.

“A” speaks directly to Brielle. “A” asks her about things she knows Brielle does and never speaks to her as though Brielle were four years old. Brielle still needs me to interpret for her or help elaborate on a story, but “A” is always genuinely interested.

“A” is Brielle’s friend on a social media website. Whenever Brielle sees that “A” is on-line, she sends her a “hi” message and “A” is always quick to chat with her for a little while.

Most of all, “A” has become a friend to us both. She is never shy about asking me direct questions about Brielle. Although “A” might not truly know what our day-to-day lives are like with Brielle, she is kind, understanding, and more than just our stylist.

Thank you, “A”! You are a treasure to us both!