Large Family Happenings, Life or Something Like It

6 Month School Update

6 Month School Update6 Month School Update

It has been a bit over but here is our 6 Month School Update.  As you may or may not know, I am a former homeschooler.  I homeschooled my children for about 20 years.  Successfully, I have graduated with 4 children.  For my younger 3 kids, I decided to try public school.

Myriad of Reasons

I love homeschooling, for the most part.  It has been a bit harder because I do have 4 special needs children, so it was also not the easiest.  Our decision to put them in school was a quick and swift decision.

I knew when I was done, I would be done.  Honestly, I was just overdone.  My exhaustion level had reached an all-time high.  When you have a child who is medically fragile, life changes.  Our traveling had hit another level and I wasn’t doing anyone any justice by being 1/2 in.  Their education is far too important for me to let it slide by.

Ben and Bug

They are well.  Almost ready to celebrate 2 years of marriage.  They are both working hard and learning so much.  Bug is moving through some things and she has made some brave decisions.  I’m incredibly proud of her.

Peach

She just started the first day of her last semester of college.  **Cue the angels singing.**  I have no idea why it seems she has been in college for 549 years, but it sure has.  She has done well.  There is that excitement mixed in with the “oh crap” mixed in with the thrill of fixing to truly start her “adult” life!  She is also working and loving her dog.  I’m incredibly proud of her.

Gigi

Thankfully, she has finished high school.  Good gracious that was a chore for both of us. She was about 6 mths late in doing so, but she worked 7 days a week to get finished.  A good friend hired her to work and that is going well.  She has MASTERED getting ANY types of stains out of clothes and she is really good with kids.  There is still a lot to figure out, but we are taking one step at a time. I’m incredibly proud of her.

Boo

He has started the last semester of his freshman year of college.  That seems unreal to me.  He is working part-time and helping out at home.  Still, though, uncertain about his major, we have ruled things out and then put things up closer to the front.  He will figure it out.  There is a little female that he has been spending time with…I just can’t talk about that right now.  I’m incredibly proud of him.

Catfish

For a kid with SEVERE dyslexia and FASD…he is rocking school!  He has had great grades and is learning to navigate life.  There have been some social issues that we have had to work through.  Mostly learning who is safe and who isn’t.  How to work around bullies.  Oh, and have there been bullies.  Bullies are not limited to children, ya know.  Adults bully too and we have certainly dealt with that.  I am not well-liked, at the school, by some people but I really do not care.  I’m incredibly proud of him.

Jude

He has excelled, as well.  Academically and with sports.  He is so much fun to watch when he is playing ball.  We have, again, dealt with bullies.  Also, sadly, lots and lots of racism.  Racism now is more underhanded and calculating.  Methodical and intentional.  There isn’t the outward act of separating out things just the subtle undertone.  It has been so sad to see and to deal with.  Again, I’m not well-liked by many.  I really do not care though.  I’m incredibly proud of him.

Kid

He has made great strides in school and in his therapies.  For a little guy, he is in a different therapy 5 days a week.  He has OT, PT, SLP, Vision, and Horse therapy (the best one of them all)!  One major accomplishment is he has learned to spell and write his name.  The thrill is unlike anything I’ve ever had!  Our hardest thing has been treatment monthly, steroids monthly, and keeping him well.  He has had 2 flare-ups since starting school.  One attacked his hands and legs.  The other attacked his hands and his speech.  I’m incredibly proud of him!

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Feeling all the Things

Feeling all the Things

Feeling all the Things

Here I am, almost midnight, the eve before 2 of my boys start middle school.  I am Feeling all the Things and then some.  Fear creeps in and then I hear my sister say “Fear is a Liar.”

There is so much I worry about.

Will Jude remember NOT to go through the metal detector?  Then my thoughts swirl to “I cannot believe my children have to walk through a metal detector.”  Will he lose his hearing aid?  What if he doesn’t wear it?  He may fall asleep during class…will he get in trouble?  Did I tell all the teacher’s about his hearing and his sleep problems?  Do I have all the things he will need to get started?  Will he be bullied?  What will he do if he is bullied?

Then there is Daniel

He is not like other kids.  I know that he knows that but others don’t know that.  They don’t know what he struggles with, internally that can manifest in strange ways externally.  What if he can’t handle the class load because his brain works a couple of steps behind the “typical” kid brain.  Will he be made fun of?  What about testing, he doesn’t test well and needs more time.  Will they know that?  He eats a lot.  What if he is still hungry and his brain slows further because he needs an extra protein or water?

Friday

On Friday, I send Hunter for his first day.  I have loved, hovered, protected, fought for, rallied with, held up, spoon-fed, and more for the last 3 years.  The last 2 years we have literally been to hell, knocked on the door, and then fought off demons with a water pistol.

What if he gets sick?  Will that put him back in a wheelchair?  What if he can’t sustain?  Will kids make fun of him and bully him?  What if he shakes so much he can’t do the things that he wants to do?  If he gets lost in the hallway, falls in the toilet, rages, struggles…what then?

Peace or No Peace

The past month, I have had such peace with this decision.  So ready.  Theoretically.  Now that it is here.  I am an anxious ball of stress.  Living on the edge of the mountain and looking down thinking…”It doesn’t seem so far…I’ll just jump.”  I can’t sleep and my mind is going 1000 different places and all at the same time.

Knowing the Right People

I know a lot of people in the system.  From the top dog to the bus drivers and that is all a good thing.  They know my kids and my kids know them.  I know that I am 5 minutes away from Hunter and about 8 away from the boys.  There have been a lot of words spoken over the course of the week but for the life of me, I cannot remember a single conversation.

Homeschooling Has its Own Struggles

It is not all peas and carrots.  I am strict, focused, and on it.  The bar is set very high for my standards whether you are “special needs” or not.  We aim high and do our best to get there by any means necessary.  I feel accomplished in graduating 4 of my 7.  Yet, there is guilt for not “finishing the race.”

That is Satan, whispering in my ear.  I know this, deep down.  Yet, I still turn my head as I hear that voice.  It still penetrates me and makes me question all the things.  I see all these “got it together” homeschooling mamas.  Yet, I know.  I know the struggles.  I’ve lived it for 20 years.  Secret time.  I HATE teaching a kid to read.  I’ve done it with 6 of my 7 but it is not something I enjoy.

I Miss My Lady

If she were here, I would drop the kids off and go to her house.  We would sit at her kitchen table and talk about all the things.  She would tell me that it was going to be fine.  Then, she would line me out on listening to Satan instead of Jesus.  Next, she would tell me the newest and latest sandwich at a particular restaurant and we would go and partake.  Finally, she would make me cry and then nap in her green chair.  I can play this all throughout my mind.

It Will All Be Okay

We will get into the flow.  Pray for the best for Hunter.  Hopefully, he will not get sick and flare-up.  If I cry, that is okay.  I know that at any point, I can change my mind and so can the boys.  My plate has been overfilled for the last 5 yrs due to many many things.  I know that I can take this time to heal, mourn, work on my health, and my passions.

For the last 23+ years, I have wiped butts, noses, educated, loved, kissed boo-boos, and more.  I sort of forgot who I was in the process.  That is okay because I have pretty awesome kids.  Jesus gave me the privilege of borrowing them for a time.  I will continue to treasure each and every new moment.

For Now

Let’s just pray that we will all bloom where we are planted.

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Large Family Happenings, Life or Something Like It

Hanging up my Hat

Hanging up my Hat

Hanging up my Hat

I have put off writing about this because I’ve been on the fence on and off.  Through much prayer, thought, and discussion…I have decided I am Hanging up my Hat.  After 20 years of homeschooling and graduating almost 4 of my 7 children…I am done.

So Many Reasons

I always knew that I would just *know* when I was done.  It’s a feeling I knew that the Lord would give me.  Peace.  This is the peace that surpasses all understanding.  I have that peace.

Since about 2014, I have been fighting this thought.  So much has happened.  Revelations in my marriage, myself, the loss of my Lady, daddy’s stroke and quadruple, Hunter’s illness, incarceration of his mom (my niece), dealing with the escalation of a couple of my children.  Just so much.  I am so tired.

Accomplishment

I will not be shamed for not home educating my children.  If you have the inclination to mom shame me, just stop where you are at.  I feel as if I have accomplished a great feat.  My oldest daughter graduated with honors, from college, a year early.  She is happy, employed at a job she loves, and is doing well.

Daughter #2 is thriving in college and loves it.  She is on her own, working fulltime and going to graduate in May of 2020.  Daughter #3 will graduate in December of 2019 and start college in the Spring of 2020. This is a huge deal for her. She has struggled due to choices of birthparents and she is learning to overcome.  Son #1 graduated high school in May of 2019, started a fulltime job, and is starting college this month.  He is taking 21 hrs his first semester.  I am INCREDIBLY proud of all of them.

What My Thoughts are Now

I am relieved, in a sense.  There has never been a moment when I have not supported our local public school system.  It has its flaws but I know some great people at the board, principals, teachers, aides, school nurses, bus drivers, etc.  They love my kids and that is a wonderful thing.

I am open to change (though I hate it).  If things do not work out for one or more of my kids, I will pull them back out.  I have no issues with that and the Director of Pupil Personnel knows that as well.  Openness is important and so is communication!

Still So Much

We travel so much for Hunter.  That is a fact that does not change.  He will miss a lot of schools but it is what it is.  Jude made the middle school baseball team.  That is A LOT of time and work and adjustment.  Daniel…we shall see.  He is not thrilled at starting school.  I hope that he adjusts well and that his needs are accommodated.

At the End of the Day

There is a lot I am proud of that I have accomplished throughout my years.  I have learned so much, overcome so much, been through so much and still, I have pressed on.  My husband is proud of me.  The kids are my greatest supporters and their willingness to step out of their box continues to impress me.

This is a new day, a new chapter.  Hopefully, all things of the past can be healed within my heart.  I hope to go back to counseling full-time.  It is time for me to focus on serious self-care and reflection.  Though, I hope that time does not take long.  I’ve been taking this summer to really try and take care of myself during all of the chaos.

Please lift up my family, as you think of it, during this massive transition.  God is bigger.

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All About Single-Sided Deafness

All About Single-Sided Deafness

All About Single-Sided Deafness

Here is the info All About Single-Sided Deafness.  According to Healthy Hearing, Single-Sided Deafness is “Living in the head shadow of singlesided deafness. …Singlesided deafness (SSD) is a condition in which a person has lost hearing in one ear, while he or she may have anywhere from normal hearing to profound hearing loss in the other.”

A Small Familiarity

This is something that I have grown up with but never really understood.  As you talk about it more, you find out that more people have hearing loss or are completely deaf in one ear.  They have just learned to deal with it, over the course of their lives.  Keep on reading from my “blonde” moment in regards to my small familiarity.

Bringing Jude Home

We met Jude when he was 4.  In our adoption journey, we flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and met this delicious child.  It was love at first sight.  There was, of course, a huge language barrier.  He spoke his native language, Wolayita.  Also, he was learning Amharic (the native language of most of Ethiopia).  As an added bonus, this teacher was teaching the kids in English.

We were in such a fog of all the information overload we were experiencing that we didn’t notice much else. He was a typical 4 yr old child.  Busy, opinionated, hungry, loving, affectionate…full of smiles.

Fast Forward 2 Years Later

It was his 6th birthday.  Per tradition, my mom called to sing to him.  He flew upstairs to talk to Jojo.  I put the phone up to his right ear.  He looked at me and he said: “I no hear in that ear.”  I must have just looked like I swallowed a bug because my mouth was open and I suddenly could not comprehend his broken English.

He moved the phone to his left ear and smiled as she sang to him. I took the phone back and told my mom what he had said.  We discussed it for a minute and she told me that I needed to do more investigation.  She asked if I remembered her surgery with her ear.  I did remember, but I never knew what it was, so she explained it all to me again.

Our Conversation

Me:  What do you mean you cannot hear in that ear?

Jude:  I can’t hear out of that ear.

Me:  But what do you mean?  Could you hear in Ethiopia?

Jude:  I no hear in Et-opia.

Me:  I don’t understand what you are saying.

Jude:  *Put both of his hands on my cheeks and brought my face closer to his face and he spoke REALLY slowly.* Mom.  I.  No.  Hear.  In.  That.  Ear.

Then he nonchalantly walked away.

Over the Course of the Day

I would sneak up on him and try to whisper in his ear to catch his “deafness”.  Clearly, I had no idea what SSD was.  I started making phone calls.  We ended up getting a hearing test done with my friend Susan Brown at Murray State.

She confirmed that he was hearing impaired but we needed a referral to see the extent to that.  We took her results, gave them to our pediatrician (who said his ears were perfectly healthy and fine).  I insisted on a referral to Dr. Shawn Jones and they did that for me, though they didn’t think it was necessary.

Seeing Dr. Jones

We had introduced Jude to the Indiana Jones movies.  He was obsessed.  He had the bag, hat, and whip to prove his devotion to this character.  As I tried to explain to him where we were going and what the dr was going to do, I failed to mention the *name* of the dr.  When we walked into the clinic, I told him that we were going to see Dr. Jones soon.

His eyes were wide and his mouth dropped.  He looked at me and said:  “Dr. Jones?!”  Me: “Yep, you are seeing Dr. Jones today.”  Jude: “As in Indian Jones??!!”  Me:  “Uhm, no.  As in. Dr. Shawn Jones.”  He was deflated.

Our Appointment

Now, Dr. Jones and I have gone way back.  He has done tube surgeries on a couple of kids and taken my tonsils out.  We know each other.  He is a believer, his wife is a homeschooler and he loves to challenge and relate to each kid/person that walks into his clinic.

We giggled over the mistaken identity moment that Jude had a few moments earlier.  Then, I went on to talk about his medical history (we pretty much knew nothing).  I told him what Susan had said.  Also, the pediatrician thought he was fine and it was more of a selective hearing loss (aka, he is a kid).

What We Learned

We learned that you can be deaf from your outer ear to your inner ear OR from your inner ear to your brain.  It is not quite as common to be deaf from your outer ear to your inner.  When he looked into his ear, he found that everything was as it should be.  There was nothing missing, all bones were intact…so that is all good.

He sent us to Kelli, who did another hearing test.  This time, she covered her mouth as she spoke to him.  That was the key.  He could read lips perfectly!  That is why the pediatrician thought he was fine.  He had become an expert at it.

The Results Were In

When all the tests were done, we discovered that he is NOT slightly or even moderately deaf in that right ear.  He is completely, profoundly deaf from the outer ear to brain.  Although, mechanically, everything is fine…he is sonic boom type of deaf.  Deaf deaf.  They were so surprised that his speech was so good.  That at one point, he was trilingual.  He had learned to compensate so well that he surprised everyone.

We Had Choices

First, we could just leave it alone and let it be.  Second, we could get cross hearing aids to magnify the sound in the good ear.  Third, we could be the first in our region to get a magnetic BAHA hearing aid.

The cross hearing aids did not work at all.  It is designed to have 2 hearing aids.  The one in the bad ear takes the noises and slings them to the hearing aid in the good ear.  Once there, it magnifies it and makes things louder.  Yep, that didn’t work at all.  Plus, they could not get wet.  Also, he couldn’t get sweat on them.  He was in sports, so he never wore them.  When he did, it just irritated him.

The BAHA hearing aid can be better explained by the company that we used, Sophono.  There is the snap on hearing aid, which most people get.  The magnetic one was newer when we started this process.  This device helped take out the maintenance of the abutment device.

What We Decided

We were just going to leave it alone, but as he got older, we noticed more things.  His deafness started becoming more noticeable (or maybe we were more aware).  He was still unfamiliar with life in the states, so he would often dart wherever and whenever.  He was in a walled area in Ethiopia, so he had freedom without fear there.  Here, he could very easily get hit by a car.  He would often run across the street to get a ball or see a dog.

In the end, after trying the first 2 less invasive options, we chose to do the BAHA.  He can wear it in the rain and he can sweat!  It is rechargeable, so that takes the need out of constantly buying batteries.  He can do it all on his own, which is a vast difference from the cros hearing aides.

As He Gets Older

His magnetic will never need changing/replacing.  He cannot have MRIs or go through medal detectors.  His hearing aid does not need to be replaced unless broken.  We get yearly maintenance on it.

He picks and chooses when he wears it.  I don’t push it.  We have learned he does not like wearing it while he eats (he apparently chews too loudly).  Also, during worship time at church (too loud).  I let him dictate when he wears it and when he doesn’t.  Now, when school starts, he will have to wear it.

Alright, Alright…Here is My Moment

This is the conversation that Dr. Jones and I had while discussing Jude’s medical history.

Me:  Can SSD be hereditary?

Dr. J:  Sometimes, why do you ask?

Me:  My mom was born without a bone in her ear.  She was deaf on one side.  There was some surgery that she got where they put a metal plate in her ear.  It bounces sound off and now she can hear.  I remember when she got it.  She was sleeping in her room with the door shut.  The rest of us were in the kitchen eating sandwiches.  She came flying in the kitchen, crying, telling us to stop chewing so loudly.  Could Jude be missing that same bone?

Dr. J (and his nurse):  **Staring at me like I had a third eyeball.**

Me:  If Jude is missing that bone, can he pass that onto his kids?  Is this a generational thing.

**Crickets chirping**

After a moment of silence and Dr. J continuing to let me babble on…

Dr. J: “Brandi, is your mom black?”

Me:  Uhm, no…you have met her, she is a short, fiery redhead, why?

Dr. J:  Brandi, your son is black.

Me:  Yep, I know that.

**Moment to let me absorb his question and my answer.**

Dr. J:  **Bursts out laughing, as does his nurse.**

Me:  **Realizing what I just asked.**  Oh, well, I feel stupid.

Dr. J:  At least you don’t distinguish between your bio and adopted kids.  To answer your question, I don’t think your American mom’s ear has anything to do with your Ethiopian son’s hearing loss.

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Medical Issues

Dys- Learning Disabilities

Dys- Learning DisabilitiesDys- Learning Disabilities

This is a breakdown of the Dys- learning disabilities.  Honestly, growing up (up to adulthood, I guess), I only knew of Dyslexia.  In that, Dyslexia meant that you saw/spelled a word backward.

Pretty amazing that that is all I thought it encompassed, huh.

Over time and with the help of some amazing therapists, I have learned so much more.  By stepping out of the “box” I had created with LD’s, I was able to expand my mind and have many “aha” moments of realization.

Dyslexia:

According to the National Institute for Learning Disabilities (NILD), “Dys” means difficulty with and “lexia” means words – thus “difficulty with words”. Originally the term “Dyslexia” referred to a specific learning deficit that hindered a person’s ability to read. More recently, however, it has been used as a general term referring to the broad category of language deficits that often includes the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words as well as the ability to read and spell words accurately and fluently. When breakdowns occur in these foundational reading skills, dyslexic students often struggle to understand what they read as well as develop vocabulary at a slower rate.

Dyscalculia:

“Dys” means difficulty with and “calculia” means calculations and mathematics – thus “difficulty with calculations and mathematics”. This term refers to those who struggle with basic number sense and early number concepts as well as have difficulties with math calculations and math reasoning.

Dysgraphia:

“Dys” means difficulty with and “graphia” means writing – thus “difficulty with writing”.  The term dysgraphia refers to more than simply having poor handwriting. This term refers to those who struggle with the motor skills necessary to write thoughts on paper, spelling, and the thinking skills needed for vocabulary retrieval, clarity of thought, grammar, and memory.

Looking Back

In my years in school, this all makes sense.  When I was young (even now), I was made fun of terribly in school.  Teachers would put me in the hallway, alone.  I had to go to a special ed room.  There is this clear memory of standing in line, with other children, behind the teacher.  She marched us to the special ed class in front of everyone.  My “friends” pointed at me while laughing because I was going to the “stupid” room.

That phrase gives me anxiety, to this day.

I had to be kept in from recess because I wouldn’t do what they wanted me to do.  Memorization of math facts, in second grade, was a nightmare.  I had to miss fun outings, sit alone, and worse…I had my name at the bottom of the list of kids who hadn’t learned these facts.  Everyone saw.  Everyone made fun of me.

Things I struggle with

Telling time on an analog clock is one of those things.  If the watch (I no longer even wear a watch) has no numbers or Roman numerals…forget it.  I can do it but it takes me a hot minute to think about it.

Directions…just don’t even.  I can tell you landmarks because I became an expert at knowing my surroundings.  Cardinal directions, ordinal numbers, place numbers, Roman numerals.  Hard pass.

My right from my left…nope.  Luckily, God created me with this issue, so he gave me a mole on my right hand.  Ask me to look to the right and then watch me look/feel for my mole on each hand.

When I have a series of numbers, I always flip the 2 middle numbers.  Always.  Needless to say, I have messed up balancing checkbooks, appointments, phone numbers, etc.  I have to write it, say it, write it again, and clarify now.

To get through math, through all grades, I cheated a lot.  My mom is a math teacher.  She is brilliant, but I simply didn’t get it.  I didn’t understand and I felt stupid when I would ask.  Seriously, I should know this stuff.  She is brilliant and available, yet I would not ask because then she would know my secret.

Do you know how long it took me to learn how to tie my shoe?  Luckily, velcro came on the scene and saved me.

That’s what I thought it was

My secret.  As long as I had my mole, knew landmarks, cheated, got a digital watch…no one would know.  Sadly, I knew.  I have no clue how I managed to do all that I did with the degrees that I have.  Pre-Vet has A LOT of math and calculations.  I would have little tricks that would help me along the way.

Then Came D

When D entered my life, he was 2.5 yrs old and non-verbal.  We knew he had some issues, so I immediately got him into First Steps.  He got tubes, twice, and finally learned to talk…with a speech impediment.

No biggie.  After he graduated from First Steps, I got him into Home Health.  He worked hard on his speech.  Over time, I realized that due to FASD, his memory was fresh every morning.  No matter how hard he worked or working with him, he would forget everything I taught him.

Public School

While we were in the process of adopting Jude, we had to put the kids in public school.  D was in Kindergarten.  Guess what?  He was in the special ed classroom, but not an all-day thing.  Just long enough to work on his alphabet and phonics.

He finally got it, but the writing was a no-go and reading was not happening.  The sadness of seeing him struggle was palpable.  It brought up a lot of repressed memories for me, that I had to trudge through in order to help him.

MSU

I pulled him out of school for many reasons, none of which I will go into because it is his story to tell, one day.  In doing that, I knew that I needed to get him back into speech.  We had his hearing checked and doing that, he was checked for Sensory Processing Disorder.  Luckily, all that was good.

Across the hall was the speech team.  We met with Alison for a “get to know you” and see if he qualifies for their program.  Well, he did.  She didn’t ask me how he was at reading or spelling.  There were questions like “does he know his right from his left” or “how long did it take him to tie his shoes?”  I answered them all as honestly as I could.

Verdict

When it was all said and done, she said that he did qualify for the speech aspect of their program.  Then she patted me on the back and said: “we do not diagnose, usually, for dyslexia until a child is older.”  I was like, alright…that ship didn’t even enter my harbor.  She got really quiet and patted me on the back.  Quietly, she said “Your son has severe dyslexia.  I knew within 5 minutes of meeting him.”

I started laughing.  She was startled at that response, so she kept on patting.  While asking if I was okay, I said:  “We just discovered my 6th child has single-sided deafness, so this diagnosis for D is just like a teardrop in the ocean.”

After that, I just stated that I thought it was me and I just was not able to teach him.  She said that is not the case, that he just learns differently.  As we continued talking about the red flags of dyslexia (and dysgraphia), she asked me a few questions about myself.

Revelations

In a moment of clarity, she looked at me and smiled.  She said you do realize you are smart and that you have been able to overcome your learning disability.  I must have had a blank moment because I did not comprehend what she even said.  She asked me when I was diagnosed with Dyscalculia.  I told her that I had never heard of that.  That I just thought I was stupid in that area.

Cue emotions.

She explained what that was and that it was crystal clear that that is what I had.  Back when I was younger, there was not a name for it.  Now there is.  I almost felt vindicated.  It is what it is.  I have compensated for my shortcomings and confusion.  So has D.

New Lease

Now, we are armed with knowledge.  D cannot spell worth a crap.  Therefore, I got him a pocket speller.  He has all these ideas and thoughts, but can’t get them on paper.  I bought Dragon Speak so he could speak out what he needed to.  He has written some awesome things through this program.

We bought an amplifier so he could hear what I was saying and his speech is corrected.  Also, we did many years of speech/reading/language therapy.  I had him write books from the Bible.  His penmanship is meticulous because he has worked incredibly hard.  Cursive was something I thought he would not be able to do…guess what though?  Writing the book of Genesis in cursive has changed that too!  We got a dry erase cursive board and he practiced until he mastered it.

He loves to read, so any series that interests him…we get.  Also, Librivox and Audible have been game-changers.  Both of these programs have real lived people (as opposed to the computer voices) reading stories.  He gets to hear it all, but he also gets to hear their inflections.  This has helped his speech tremendously.

Fear is a Liar

I lived in fear.  Now, I am armed with Truth and knowledge.  By being armed, it has given me clarity and understanding.  Learn all you can about something you are afraid of.  You are strong, brave, kind, and good.  We no longer live in fear.  We are empowered!

 

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Things You May Not Know About Homeschooling A Child With Dyslexia

Things You May Not Know About Homeschooling A Child With Dyslexia

There are things you may not know about homeschooling a child with Dyslexia   Homeschooling a child, with Dyslexia (and other learning disabilities), has been one of the most stressful, difficult, undesirable times of my life.  Dramatic?  Maybe, but it is my truth.

I was ELATED when we found out our child had dyslexia.  I mean, I giggled.  It was such a loud giggle that my child’s therapist thought I was fixing to have some sort of breakdown.  She even patted me, and I got a hearty “bless your heart.”

By the time my child was diagnosed, I had had this child in public preschool, homeschool, back to public school, and then when that crashed and burned, back to homeschooling.  I have homeschooled this child for the majority of his life, but I wanted to see if someone else could figure out what was wrong.

Luckily, our local university does specialized testing that does not cost me an arm and a leg.  Add that to the fact that his therapist (and all of the grad students) were beyond amazing with my child (and with me).

Getting Tested

Getting tested was not a hard thing to do, once we got going.  We first had him tested for Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CapD).  That yielded the result of nothing was wrong, and his hearing was excellent.  No help, no answers.

We started therapy because I thought maybe it was depression or anxiety.  That was another plane flying into a mountain kind of moment.  It yielded no results.  Next, we tried medication for ADHD/ADD to see if that would spark something.  The meds did nothing.

It was an exhaustive list of things that we tried.  There was no amount of anything I could do or that I tried that helped him.  He was falling further and further behind, educationally, mentally, emotionally, and otherwise.

Finally an Answer

Once we got our appointment, at our local university, the therapist said she had to “score” the results.  That was when the back-patting began.  I asked her why she was patting my back and had a look of sympathy on her face.  She just smiled that sweet smile and kept on patting.

She said that she could not definitively tell me anything (until the scoring was done), but she knew within 5 minutes that he was SEVERELY dyslexic.

**Cue giggles**

Working Hard

She and the grad students worked really hard with him.  He worked very hard, as well.  They did the Barton system with him, that did help.  He was “well enough” to leave intense therapy.

Since he has been out of therapy, life has been hard.  He is not progressing at an average rate, at all.  He struggles, at times, with even spelling his name.  Spelling, well that is a thing of the past.  I’ve finally yielded and bought him a spelling calculator.

We have the Dragon software, so he can “tell” stories instead of having to write them physically.  This does not help with his grammar, however…I feel like that could be a lost cause.

He does have an insatiable love of reading.  I am incredibly thankful for that aspect of his life.  He may skim over words that he doesn’t know, but he still reads.  He prefers the Encyclopedia on any type of war.

Other Issues

Other issues play into the delay that this child has, but I’m not going to go into them.  I just know that I hold onto a lot of the guilt for how behind he is.  It is not for lack of me holding him to a higher standard or for seeking outside help…it is just a mom’s guilt.

I know that I am not to blame for things his biological mom chose to do, while pregnant.  Logically, I know that, but still…I wanted to be able to fix it.  To make it better.  Help him learn.  See him thrive.

I almost feel like I’m 1/2 way up the mountain.  I’m not sliding down the mountain, and I’m not going upwards either.  A treadmill…I’m standing on a treadmill, going THROUGH the mountain.

Here’s to all the mama’s going through the mountain.  Cheers.

The More You Know

Test for Dyslexia

Dyslexia: Symptoms and Causes

 

Life or Something Like It, Medical Issues

Part 3 Welcome Home

Part 3 Welcome Home

 

Part 3 Welcome Home.  My flesh screams and I’m hanging onto the armrests of my airplane seat.  I refuse to move.  This is my anniversary.  This is our planned TRIP.  We are not moving.  I do not want to stay.  Honestly, I would live in France, if I had to, but guess what?  I don’t have to.  We are traveling, that’s it.  No more, no less.  I sit there, stunned. Unable to move or comprehend what all I’m about to see/smell/witness in this country I have never planned to go to.

What I Envision Versus Reality

The door of the plane opens…we grab our luggage that is packed for France….and we get off the plane.  My first thought is the drabness of the airport.  The busyness of it.  I felt like I needed to wash my hands because so many people were touching me.  They were all speaking in different languages.  I found myself watching their mouths move, trying to read lips or get a nugget of information, but I couldn’t.  I couldn’t understand any person or sign.  There was also not a single person who spoke English.  I felt trapped in this foreign country.  There was nowhere, no one to guide me, no vehicle, no home, no food, nothing.

Overstimulated Moment

I picture us grabbing our stuff and trying to find our way out of that blasted, loud, big, busy airport.  There was a moment when I needed air.  Sadly, I was overstimulated by the news and anxious because this was completely out of our control.  Air, I needed to breathe fresh air and take a moment to regroup.  I was thrown into something that was not of my doing.  There were two choices, I could either curl up in a ball and sob or I could find a way through the fear and uncertainty.

Ray of Sunshine

As I processed this news, I felt a ray of sunshine hit my face.  I felt a cool breeze as we walked outside.  In one moment, I opened my eyes and from as far as the east is from the west, there were tulips.  I love tulips.  Honestly, I love the beauty of them, the array of colors, the smells.  Tulips come up every single year without fail.  Far off, in the distance, I saw windmills.  The most gorgeous background, I have ever seen in my life.

Absorbing my Surroundings

As we walk around, absorbing our surroundings, we think about Paris and what we will miss.  The art, the food, the atmosphere……all of our plans, all the cool things we would see….we had to mourn that because we knew, we were “stuck” in Holland.  Don’t get me wrong, Holland is phenomenally gorgeous, it is just where I wanted to be.  I don’t mind a visit, but why must we live there.  We had to mourn not seeing our family, our home, American food, the freedoms we had in America.  There was just a lot to process.

Once our mourning time was done and we settled in to this new life….this new place with all these new sites, new foods, noises, smells.  We began to acclimate to our surroundings and we began to learn about the cultures and the foods.

Holland and Its Beauty

Holland has its own beauty, but it was not what we had originally planned for.  We had to learn to adapt and compensate for the things that we wanted to see in Paris and what we wanted from home.  It wasn’t bad…just different.  It was a change and I’m not one to like change.

I had to learn that I could not “fix” my children…only God could and will do that.  I had to learn to let go of control of what was and begin to love what is.  By mourning, so deeply, the loss of what was going to be a 10-day vacation to Paris, I was losing out on what was surrounding me.

Seeing Things from a Different Perspective

New colors, new foods, new scenery…..I began to love my new home and by loving it, I began to change.  Ironically, I began seeking God more and seeking help for my depression.  Also, I learned that FASD, RAD, Single-Sided Deafness, Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome does not define my children.  Finally, I learned how to love again…I learned how to love my God, my husband, and my children for who they were and not what I “envisioned” them to be.

Be open to change.  Be open to new things.  Stop trying to fix things.  Stop trying to control what you are not meant to control.

Live life and love without abandon.

 

 

Life or Something Like It, Medical Issues

Part 2 Uhm NO

Yesterday, I wrote the FIRST PART to my story…..today, Part 2 Uhm NO continues.

Part 2 Uhm NO

 

Part 2 Uhm NO

Uhm, WHAT??????!!!!!!!!!!!!  Holland?   Uhm, no.  No thank you.   I know nothing and I do not have an itinerary.  Sadly, I do not have a place to stay, I don’t know where to eat, I know nothing.  NOTHING.  I can picture myself asking the stewardess if this is a layover.  How long it will be before we arrive in PARIS, FRANCE.  Then, she says that this is our destination.

Our ticket is one way…..they will be adding our children/pets, onto the plane, over the course of the trip.  This is where we will live out our days until the Lord sees fit to move us somewhere else.  I had planned on staying in France for 10 days, not my life.  I certainly did not plan on LIVING in Holland and what the heck do you mean, you will bring our kids during the flight?????????

When we started creating our family….we had definite plans.

Big Daddy wanted 1 child and I wanted 4.  We compromised on 3.  Our oldest was high strung, motivated, and determined.  She is also super sensitive to bright lights, noises, and does not care for lots of people.  Our second was a pistol.  She was creative, loved animals, told you like it was regardless of if it was appropriate or not.  She has a bit of a lazy streak and wanted things done for her more times than not.  Our third, our only biological son, was an easy baby until he wasn’t.

Noah’s Journey

He was the first to crawl, he babbled, talked, loved eating and then he had his 12 mths shots….life changed.  Maybe that was when we were “packing” to go to Italy.  It was like shades pulled down over his eyes and he stopped talking, he threw lots of fights, he had sensory issues…..it was tough.  Our life was now full of speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.  It was hard.  The Lord guided us and helped us and allowed me to have a great deal of soaked in knowledge….and today, you would never know anything was ever wrong.

So…Victoria, we started planning the trip.  Alyssa, we started saving for the trip.  Then, with Noah, we got on that plane and we headed to Paris, France to see all the things we could see on a 10-day trip.

Then….there was God.

As we were flying, God saw fit to allow 2 more kids to join our crew.  These kids were older, than came from severe trauma physically, mentally, and emotionally…amongst other trauma and He thought it’d be a good idea to have Big Daddy and me to raise them.  It was almost like He threw me into the lion’s den as he did with Daniel.  I was totally unprepared.  Realistically, I thought I could love the FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder), RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder, Behavioral Issues, Dyslexia, Developmental Delays, Food gorging/hoarding/stealing out of them.  Sadly, I wanted to fix them.  Plain and simple.

While I was “trying” to “fix them”…..God showed up again.

This time, it was a brief detour, on our flight, to Ethiopia.  The trip there was ROUGH.  It was full of turbulence and engine problems.  We thought and we were told we would not make it BUT GOD had other plans.  We made it…..instead of a 24 hr flight, it would take us 15 mths to get from where we were (on a plane headed on vacation to Paris) to Ethiopia because He wanted us to add to our dysfunctional crew.  He was another older child and he had malnutrition brain, some behavioral issues, and we came to find out that he was deaf in one ear…not a little bit hearing impaired but deaf.  Again, I could fix this.  I could continue raising all these kids will “fixing” their issues and problems.  I was content, tired, and overwhelmed but content.

But then……..there was God again.

Several years and tears from our first child to our sixth child…..I was sitting on that plane, wishing to be at our destination so I could have some respite and time to breathe.  God decided to be my breath and to breathe for me…He did this in the form of our seventh child….our Zebra.

I thought the stress of trying to fix my FASD, RAD, ADHD, PTSD, Dyslexia, Learning Disabilities, Deafness, Autistic tendencies, Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome, blah blah blah was going to bring me to my knees…..oh, heck no….this little dude came into my life and turned it upside down.  He has taught me so much and he has given me such joy but he also went from a normal little boy to a medically fragile kid in about 4 hrs.  Please hear me say…..I would not change a thing with this little guy.  He brings us such joy and happiness….even in the midst of uncertainty with his health.

Part 3:  Welcome Home.
Life or Something Like It, Medical Issues

Welcome to Holland

 

Welcome to Holland is a poem that I have always loved.  It is a different way to look at things when life does not go as planned.  There are 4 of my 7 children who have special needs.  We have dealt with Dyslexia, learning disabilities, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Sensorineural Hearing Loss, Generalized Epilepsy, Functional Neurological Disorder, and Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome.

WELCOME TO HOLLAND

by
Emily Perl Kingsley.

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

Planning a Trip to Italy

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

Discovering You are in Holland

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved.

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Guest Blogger Big Daddy on Adoption

Guest Blogger Big Daddy on Adoption

Guest Blogger Big Daddy on Adoption and his thoughts.  After having three biological children, we decided to enter the realm of adoption.  We believed that our quiver wasn’t full so the decision was easy.  What we didn’t realize is that adoption is HARD.  It doesn’t really matter what kind of adoption it is, whether it’s through foster care, international adoption or one of your own relatives, adoption is not for the faint of heart.
Adoption is Rewarding
However, adoption is very rewarding.  To know that you have taken a life into your home, that otherwise was not wanted or was being mistreated, abused, neglected, is an amazing miracle.  God intended for children to be raised by their parents, but circumstances sometimes do not allow that to happen.  That’s why we took the plunge.  To care for the orphans.
Our Wild Ride to Adoption
As for our journey, it has been a wild ride, to say the least.  We have had a lot of good days and plenty of bad ones.  But so far, we have stayed the course.  We have tried to instill Godly values in all of our children while teaching them honesty, integrity, responsibility, and character.  Sometimes we think that we are not making much progress, but truly we believe if we are consistent with the kids, they will turn out fine.  Each child is different. We have had to learn how to parent each child with their different behaviors and personalities.
I guess at first I was resistant to adoption, but after I met the little girl my sister-in-law and her husband adopted from the Philipines, my heart melted.  I saw the love shown and given to her and believed I could do the same.  So we decided to do it.
Our First Experience
Our first experience with fostering to adopt started out pretty good other than the fact that these children were brought to us and we knew nothing about them.  It was hard especially with Shay because she was non-verbal at 2 years old.  She never did warm up to me very much.  Tay, on the other hand, was very happy and always smiling.  Also, they were very sick…we just could not get them well.
Then the day that nearly broke us into the world of fostering/adoption happened.  The kids were suddenly taken away from us by the Cabinet.  We had no idea….one minute we are raising these kids, and the next minute they are gone.  We were told the reason but truly believed the social worker lied about us in a court hearing that we were not present at.  I was furious, and it literally crushed my wife.  To this day, she still has the scars of them being taken from us.  We just had to believe that the Lord had different plans for those sweet children and us.
Never Again?
At that time we told ourselves we would not go through a horrible experience like we just had but decided to give it another go around.  We started fostering Daniel and Grayce in the spring of 2007.  At first, it was really good but we learned quickly how damaged a lot of these children can be who have been in the child services system.  To find out the kids you just took into your home were previously abused is a tough pill to swallow.
Having to raise children in the midst of an investigation of abuse and ensuing court proceedings is not the way it should be.  But the kids were safe, and we did our best to cope with the behaviors stemming from their past.  We finally were able to adopt them about two and a half years later.  Since then, we’ve pretty much run the gamut on ups and downs with them.  Some days are good and some days are bad but in the end, they are loved, and hopefully, they will be able to overcome the terrible start they had in life.
International Adoption
Our next adoption was a foray into international adoption.  My wife had always dreamed of adopting from the county of Ethiopia and after I met my new nephew from Ethiopia, my sister-in-law’s second adopted child, I was ready to go to Africa.  The process was a lot of paperwork and a lot of money.  (Not sure why it costs so much to adopt a child who has no home or no one else wants).  Within a few months, we had a referral and got a picture of our son.  It was amazing how we could love someone so much whom we had never met.
The anticipation was unbearable.  But soon after that, we were able to travel to Africa and meet our son.  It was an experience like none other.  We got to meet our son and spend three or four days with him.  We went to court and were granted the adoption.  The hardest part was leaving him there.  But we were told that it should only be about 8 weeks before we could come back and bring him home.  Little did we know at the time that 8 weeks would turn into 14 months.
Huge Mistake Made by Home Study Agency
A huge mistake was made by our home study agency, and we were told by the US government that we did not make enough money to bring him home.  How ridiculous is that?  It’s a shame that money, or the lack thereof, keeps so many people from adopting children that need good homes.  When we found this out, we desperately tried everything we could to get clearance from USCIS but were flat out denied two months later.  My wife was crushed beyond all belief.  From December 2010 to about November 2011, she was just a shell of a person.
Yes, she lived and breathed, but that was about it.  She was vacant.  And there was nothing I could do about it.  For me, I believed that there was no way God would allow us to travel 7000 miles to meet a boy and tell him he would be our son, then him not ever come home.  Not necessarily for our sake but for his.  He was an innocent child growing up in an orphanage with 50 or 60 other children just like him.  But God made way for us to get our clearance to bring him home and in December 2011, we brought Jude to his forever home.  We were made whole.
Here We Go Again
After we brought Jude home, we thought our quiver was full.  But God had other plans for our family.  In November of 2015, we had an opportunity to take in our great-nephew, Hunter.  His mother, our niece, had been in trouble with the law and was not able to take care of him.  Hunter had been living with a man who believed he was the father.  He had troubles of his own an agreed for us to keep Hunter for a while.  We decided to file for emergency custody of Hunter mainly for his safety at the time.  The man who he was living with turned out not to be the biological father, and we were granted temporary custody of Hunter.
His Biological Mom
His mother got into even more trouble later and was facing a lot of time in prison.  She made a tough yet mature decision to terminate her rights and allow us to adopt Hunter.  I can’t imagine how hard that was for her.  I am very proud of her for sacrificing for her son.  Hunter invigorated our family with joy.  He has so much energy and is very sweet and funny.  However, back in June, he was diagnosed with an extremely rare neurological disorder called Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome.  He has been through a lot already, and it has been really tough on him and us.  But we take it one day at a time and trust in God for healing and comfort.
Adoption is Tough
So to those of you reading this and considering adopting…..do not have preconceived notions of lollipops and rainbows.  Adoption is tough and not for the faint of heart.  But the rewards are unending.  Giving a child a home and stability is a beautiful thing.  Children, whether they know it or not, crave structure, discipline, and a sense of worth.
That’s the beauty of adoption.