The Anniversary I Forgot

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The other day I looked over at the calendar…September 15th. Not a day of note. We didn’t have any plans. But, I was surprised at the date. Not because of the date it was, but because of the date I forgot.

September 12, 2012. The day Junior was diagnosed with profound hearing loss. The day that officially began our special needs journey. The day I thought I could never forget because the grief was etched so strongly in my mind and heart. As I sat in that sterile audiologist’s office holding my sleeping infant as she went over the results of his failed hearing test, her words were unintelligible through my tears. I thought our world was over…I thought we would never be happy again.

And yet…

The five year anniversary of this life-changing date was missed. Overlooked. Forgotten. That date I thought was forever going to shape my world and become a solemn reminder of our challenges has now become “just another day.”

Being the parent of a deaf child isn’t easy. It never will be. Our days are still filled with therapies and frustrations and broken cochlear implant pieces and phone calls to specialists and insurance companies. But, they are also filled with laughter, joy, and pride. They are filled with Junior whispering in my ear that he loves me, with books and reading and singing, and with Junior telling everyone he meets that he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up so he can visit Jupiter and the Moon like any other five year old boy.

Five years ago, I never thought a day would go by when I didn’t think about the day he was diagnosed. But now, because of all the lessons we have learned along the way, like hope and perseverance, determination and gratitude, it is a day that barely gets a second thought.

Grade 4 Curriculum Choices

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I can’t believe my baby is going to be a 4th grader this year. Tater turned 9 a couple weeks ago, and I’m kind of in a permanent state of denial about it. At least she still calls me “mommy” and enjoys being around me. Sigh.

It’s always so much fun to choose curriculum, so I’m excited to start the school year! Here are our curriculum choices for Tater’s 4th grade:

Bible: We are not using a formal curriculum for Bible, but will read Bible stories, study heroes of faith as well as biblical character traits.

Math: We are continuing with Horizons math this year.

Science: We enjoyed Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy last year, so this year we are using Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics. Tater’s choice…she loves doing science experiments.

Language Arts: We are doing daily Reading Comprehension worksheets, Latin Roots of English, and vocabulary.

Handwriting: No formal curriculum here either…just copywork from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.

Spelling: We have loved All About Spelling for Tater’s dysgraphia, and will be continuing with the program.

History: Last year I wrote my own World History curriculum using Living Books. We read almost 900 library books last school year and did corresponding crafts and hands on activities. I will be doing the same thing this year except with US History. I’m really excited!

Literature Read Alouds: All our read alouds correspond with our US History lessons. They will be:
-The Matchlock Gun
-Calico Captive
-Johnny Tremain
-By The Shores of Silver Lake
-Rifles for Watie
-Caddie Woodlawn

Art/Music:
We will be studying US Artists, popular time period music, and will be doing a lot of arts and crafts.

PE: Tater will continue in karate. She loves it and has shown quite an affinity.

Also, Junior will be starting Preschool work this year. We aren’t doing anything formal unless he wants to (I bought him an Apologia notebook to follow along in science), but he is already an eager learner and will be joining us for history, read alouds, and whatever else he wants!

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An Update–And Junior’s Exciting News

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Is it me, or is 2017 going be at light speed? I mean, seriously. Wasn’t it just Christmas???

It has been insane around here. The week after Christmas, I surprised my husband with a long family weekend in Yosemite for his birthday. The day after we returned, my husband came down with the flu. He was down for a full week. Then both kids got it. Three days after we finally had health back in our home, we left for my husband’s business trip and had our Apocalypse III Blizzard experience.

The week after we returned from that trip in early February, my husband ended up in the ER and needed immediate surgery. He had a second surgery a couple weeks later, and spent the rest of February and most of March recovering. Then Junior started soccer, we got caught up in our schoolwork, and both kids began karate lessons. So, that, in a nutshell has been our year so far. So forgive me for not updating sooner =)

One exciting update has to do with Junior’s therapy. Since he was a baby, he’s suffered from sensory issues, eventually gaining him a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder. We’ve been seeing an OT since he was 2. He’s going to be 5 next month, and we just received the results of his latest sensory profile test. He no longer has SPD! He has shed that diagnosis, and now his only diagnosis is deafness.

So that is exciting. He is starting a second weekly speech therapy session in attempts to get his speech up to peer level. Though he is almost 5, his speech is closer to that of a 3.5 year old, so we are hoping an additional session will help him bridge that gap sooner.

So, that’s the latest from us. Hopefully things slow down a bit. I have a lot of fun school activities and projects I’ve been wanting to post as well!

Making a Screen Time Fast Work for Your Family

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A couple weeks ago, I had posted about our family’s journey to eliminating screen time. We are now two months without screen time, and the change in Junior’s attitude and speech quality has been nothing short of exceptional. We just returned from a road trip in which we spent 24 hours in the car over 4 days, and the kids did not use any electronic games or toys. Junior played with Play-Doh for four hours. Four hours. A couple months ago, I wouldn’t have thought he were capable of 4 minutes on any one activity. Ask Junior if he wants the iPad now, and he says  “no, it’s bad for my brain.” He is SO much more regulated and able to cope with life better. The several times I have turned a show on since we completed the fast has ended in a major meltdown within a couple of hours.

Several people have mentioned that they would like to try the screen time elimination, but don’t know where to start, because the thought of removing screen time from their child’s world is overwhelming. Here are some tips on making the transition a little easier:

1. I highly recommend the book, “Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time” as it gives all the reasons behind the why and how of screen time influence on children’s brains and it also outlines the entire screen time fast.

2. For the first few days, I suggest coming up with activities to keep the kids out of the house. The first few days are the hardest part of the withdrawal period, and if kids are out being active, they won’t be as tempted to ask for a show or the iPad. Go to the playground, take the kids bowling, go for a hike…just make sure you have a few days of being out of the house for the most part.

3. Have fun activities scheduled for a while. For the most part, I’m not a fan of scheduling out activities, but for the first week of the fast (after a couple days of being out of the house), it helps to have some activities scheduled. I had several craft projects set up, as well as some science experiments, board game time, and recipes to make together.

My Favorite Screen Free Games and Toys

Believe it or not, there are more ways to entertain kids out there than just video games, iPads, and movies. Here are some of my kid’s favorite things to do:

  • Legos
    • If your kids prefer less open-ended activities, there are many “Lego Building Challenge” ideas on Pinterest.
  • Wooden Blocks
  • Magnetic Blocks
    • These magnetic blocks are one of my all-time favorite toys. The kids learn a lot about 3-D shapes, can build impressive structures, and Junior even sticks them to his cochlear implant magnets :)
  • Art Supplies
    • Keeping a good stock of paper, paints, crayons, markers, watercolors, stickers, glitter glue, and scissors make for hours of creative fun.
  • Car Races
    • Even my 8 year old daughter loves building Hot Wheels tracks!
  • Outdoor Toys
    • Inexpensive things like sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and little shovels are outdoor staples to have on hand.
    • Sandboxes, ride-ons, and water tables also keep kids having fun outside.

Even if you’re overwhelmed with the thought of starting a screentime fast, I promise it will be worth it. I didn’t know how I was going to do it–after all, I needed the break and I thought that the iPad was the only thing that would calm Junior down in a meltdown (which were happening multiple times a day). Now that the screens are gone, the meltdowns have ceased as well and I realized that the devices I thought were helping the problem were actually making it worse.

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Four Years Later…

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Junior turns 4 next week. It’s been four years. Nearly half a decade. 1461 Days.

And yet it still feels like yesterday.

I’ve shared a little bit about Junior’s birth story, and the difficult and painful months leading up to his birth with the death of a parent among other trials, followed by the difficult and painful months after his birth as we came to learn about the reality of having a special needs child.

The last four years have been a roller coaster, and it’s changed me. In some amazing and wonderful ways, and some not so great ways. I’ve learned unconditional love, compassion, empathy, and the value of taking nothing for granted. But, I’ve also experienced grief, overwhelming days, anxiety about his future, and exhaustion. I try to accentuate the best parts of our journey, but some days, weeks, and months are just hard. But, would I change anything about him? Not a thing.

The ups and downs of having a special needs child are impossible to explain unless you’ve been there. The little milestones keep us going…the one year old who can finally turn to the sound of his name being called. The two and a half year old who sleeps through the night for the first time, the almost-4-year old who can make it through an entire dinner at a restaurant without having a meltdown, and asks for juice instead of grunting for it.

Some of these little milestones were years in the making. It took a year of speech therapy after receiving his implant before Junior could even hear the “Sh” sound, and another 18 months before he could actually say it. It took 2 years of occupational therapy to get him to sit still in a chair coloring for just 3 minutes. Three years of auditory verbal therapy before he could string together a sentence.

But, they say the harder you have to work for something, the more satisfaction it brings. The joy on his face when we turn his “ears” on every morning is like a new miracle each day. Every new word he utters makes me proud, and gives me hope. I must have dozens of Junior’s renditions of You Are My Sunshine, Blessed Assurance, and Amazing Grace recorded onto my phone because I just can’t get enough of hearing him sing.

Four years ago, I could never have imagined this path we were about to take. This world of deafness, cochlear implants, AVT, SPD, OT, audiologists, sleepless nights, and behavioral screenings. Of love, joy, hope, compassion, and contentment.

Because four years ago, this little boy turned me into the person I was supposed to be. His mom.

Happy birthday baby boy.

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