Sunday, June 29, 2014

From Tragedy To Triumph

Many of you know about the precious girl that passed away 7 months ago on Thanksgiving day. She was our pastor's granddaughter, and our dear friend's daughter. She was basically the same age as Ezie and had a twin sister, as well as an older sister that is Z's age. The day after she died her mother felt the Lord put it on her heart that instead of flowers or monetary gifts for the family, she wanted people to make donations to the church nursery in honor of her daughter Palmyer. The much needed renovation would be called Palmyer's Playhouse. Since then things have grown to where they are now taking the ministry of Palymer's Playhouse around the world with the first stop in Kenya Africa to build a play ground for an orphanage there. I am connected with the families that head up both ministries and I really cannot say enough good things about them. These are some of the most amazing people you will ever meet. This past week I participated in a fundraiser that will help Palymers Playhouse and One By One which is the missions project in Africa.

 It is so amazing to see how God is bringing healing and restoration to what was a horrible nightmare by building play areas for children in memory of this little girl. I took photos of Palmyr's sisters last week. We included Palmyer's favorite toy and a bib in some of the photos.

  One day we will be with her again and until then we celebrate all the beautiful things that are taking place because the family of Christ has decided to come together and make a difference.

On a similar note I have another fundraiser coming up that I am going to have to gear up and get in shape for pretty soon. I mentioned that SJ's summer school was being paid for through a scholarship. The funding is coming from an organization called Building Blocks 4 Kids and specifically through the Jess Galley Memorial fund. My heart lept with joy and appreciation when I heard that SJ would be able to have access to the resources she needs this summer to continue progress in the area of language and communication. As I read the email it sent me to a link that showed who had made the donation and I learned that Jess Galley was a beautiful young lady going to school at University of Cincinnati to pursue a career in special education. Unfortunatley her life was tragically cut short due to a car accident in December of 2012. It is in her honor that SJ and other children with special needs are able to receive the help that they need. Isn't that amazing? God is so good. I feel for this family, as I know what it is like to loose a loved one. I am grateful beyond words though that we can bring light to her legacy though, thanks to the generous gift they have given to SJ for her education. 

That is why I am running in this years Building Blocks 4 Kids 5K Bubble Bash Color Dash. It is my first time doing anything like this and I may not actually run, but I am going to get to the finish line! I want to do whatever I can to raise awareness and money as a chance to give back and pay it forward. If you live in the area and are interested in being a part of my team you can go to this page and sign up. The cost is $35 dollars to register and any other money raised is appreciated as it will go toward helping other children with special needs. 

I'll definitely keep everyone posted as the event gets closer. I am delighted to be a part of some of these programs that give hope amidst the darkness all around us. It truly brings me joy.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Another Long Week

There are 4 movies in the Scream series (or so I'm told from google) and I've got a great pitch for Scream 5. You trap 3 children in a suburban apartment for the summer and you listen to them scream bloody murder the whole time. I can hear the haunting music play in the background, and I'm envisioning the eery shrieks. It's like I can literally hear them right now. Oh wait that's no horror movie, that's real life. Okay, summer has not been that "horrific", but we are going through a major screaming phase. Ezie mostly. SJ contributes plenty though, and sometimes Z is involved as the perpetrator.

 In keeping with horror film theme if I receive a note like this in the future I could reply- Yes, we all know what I did last summer. I stayed home with my kids. You know this because they could be heard from near and far. I'm pretty sure stock in birth control goes up 15% when my one year old cries, which is every time he doesn't get his way.

I'll spare the details, but it's been a difficult week. That's not to say it was all bad. We had some really fun boredom busters this week and I still have yet to announce the fun surprises that are to come. Without further ado here are some of the ways we filled our time last week-

1. Swimming
What better way to pass the hours in the heat than jumping in a pool. Lucky for us there is a nice neighborhood next to SJ's school that has swimming pools and some of the families from the school live there. We are really appreciative that they are kind enough to allow us to join them for some swim time.

I need to do a post that is all about swimming with cochlear implants. All three kids in this picture are deaf and have CIs. It takes some effort to get them all ready, but it's worth it for the fun they have.

2. Play Date
This summer is all about play dates. On the last day of school Z was totally distraught about saying goodbye to his best bud.

I was so torn up about it myself that at the last minute I found a piece of paper and a pen from the classroom and I wrote a note with my info on that I was hoping would make it's way back to this boys mom. I totally had forgotten about it until last week when I got an email inviting Z over for the afternoon. This was the first time he had ever gone to a friends house alone. The visit was a success though and I was so happy for him.

3. VBS
I looked online and kept my eyes peeled while toting the kids around in hopes of finding a local VBS. It turns out that one of the moms from pool was volunteering for the one at her church last week. Even though we didn't find out about it until after it had begun we were still able to make the last three sessions. It was an AWESOME program! Z and SJ I had a blast.

 4. Yard Sales
While looking for churches that had VBS I came across one that was promoting a free yard sale. It was a community event called share fest where they do all sorts of random acts of kindness, one of which is a huge yard sale with no prices. That's right, first come first serve, take what you need. Not only was it fun to do some yard sale shopping, but there were cool activities for the kids too, like a bounce house, face paint, and balloons. The face paint was pretty rough, but the teenage girls volunteering were very kind to have attempted it, even if I did mistake SJ's butterfly for a bite mark.

5. Science experiments

Once again, this is a topic that deserves a post of it's own. We have done some really cool science experiments this summer. These two demonstrated how water can travel up or down through various materials.

6. Balloons

Our little balloon activity was kind of a bust (excuse the pun). It was fun to make balloon figures by watching youtube videos, but whether they burst or fly away I have found balloons always end with bickering and heart ache for my younguns. What can ya do?

Now that I mention all the activities we enjoyed I feel bad about griping so much. Obviously we had some good times. I just need to focus on that and grit my teeth through the rest. Hopefully this week will not be as stressful.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Slideshow

As a mother I feel a lot more than I ever imagined that I would. These "graduations" that I just witnessed for Z and SJ were kind of emotional for me. 

First of all, I am excited that Z is moving onto 1st grade. I didn't cry or tear up one bit when he graduated.

 I did several weeks before though. You see, I was working on a slideshow for a high school graduation. You know the kind. You have baby pictures that transform to toddlers, who then fade into children with siblings, and eventually awkward adolescents, ending with a current Senior photo. Throw in some sappy music like "Stop This Train" by John Mayer and you've got yourself a recipe for tears. That's what happened to me as I was scanning and arranging photos of this class that I had no personal connections with whatsoever. There was one student in particular that reminded me of Z. Not that he was the spitting image, but there was something all too familiar about this little face looking up at the camera from the high chair. Or the photo of him heading off for his first day of school, gripping his oversized backpack, ready to face the world. In that moment I thought of this boy's mom and I felt like I knew her. She was me. Not in a creepy way, like I was the mother to a boy I would have had to have been pregnant with when I was 13. No. I just realized that his mom was probably just like me 12 years ago. She was standing over the highchair snapping countless photos of the messy face that she adored. She was just as proud as he was when he showed off the first fish he caught or the first time he dove into the deep end. She collected all of these photographs and reminisced as she sorted through them attempting to select her favorites to be shown for this right of passage ceremony that graduation is. It's hard to narrow down just a handful of photos from 18 years of life. At least that is how I would feel, if it were me. Thats when I stopped sniffling and snapped myself back into the reality that my son is graduating kindergarten NOT high school, and despite knowing how quickly it will pass by, I have so much time ahead of me. 

SJ's first preschool graduation wasn't much better. On the last day of school they sent home her nap time pillow and blanket. It's routine to send home the pillow case and blanket weekly for washing, but this time it was going home for good. When she goes back for her final year of preschool next year she will not be napping. This little polkadot blanket brings so many memories to the surface for me. It was a baby shower gift that I received when I was pregnant. The blanket was there when she was born.

 I sent it in with her to have at the hospital when she had her surgery.

 It was perfect when making forts…

or feeling sick. 

 It's not that it's a security blanket that she totes around like Linus. She would probably never even notice if it disappeared, but it seems it is always there when she needs it. The blankets isn't going anywhere any time soon, but it makes me sentimental just thinking about her moving on and growing up. Don't even get me started on her recognition ceremony.

Since SJ was diagnosed one of the most encouraging things in the midst of uncertainty is to see her deaf peers that are years ahead of her in their journey. That's what her school graduation is all about. The speeches were so moving, from alumni students to the students that are graduating (after years of extensive therapy and challenging work) to transfer into mainstream education. To hear them speak so clearly and confidently, sharing their accomplishments is truly inspirational, to say the least. 

I don't plan on getting this melodramatic at the end of every school year, but this is the first time I have done this and it was a big deal for both of them for different reasons. It wasn't the easiest year for our family both of them were starting new unknown journeys, but they have overcome every obstacle and I know they are on their way to big, big things. Right now they may just be on their way to being able to tie their own shoes, but before you know it that will just be one of the many pictures I sift through for the graduation slideshow. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Is It Still June?

Well, this week was a tad bit more stressful now that SJ is in summer school and we are back in the apartment. The good news is I have some unexpected adventurous oportunities coming up that are sure to make the rest of the summer a BREEZE! Speaking of breeze, the weather has been spectacular for mid June. We've had a lot of rain, but it's been a cool summer so far, which is prefect for this mountain dreaming, winter preferring, layered-clothes-loving family.

Here is what we did to stay busy…

1. Bounce House
The church J has been leading worship at had a big dedication Sunday for their new building. There was a grand reception, which included with massive bounce house. Church activities are a great way to break up the summer monotony.

2. Fruit Creation
You know how much I love fruit creations! Z has been craving fruit pizza and since Mario is his favorite character we went for it.

This delightful combination of kiwi, strawberries, apples, pears, oranges and grapes didn't last long though.  

3. Spray Ground

The first time we went to the park that supposedly had a fountain play area we got there when it was already turned off. Not to worry, we still had fun without getting wet. Can you spot my three kiddos? I'll give you a hint, thankfully they are not ON TOP of the slide. 

We went back the next day to have a chance to splash around in the "spray ground". I foresee a lot more of this boredom buster in our future.

4. Legos 

Z played with little legos at the big table while the other two played with big legos at the little table. Lego fun for everyone. 

5. McDonald's

I'm not a McDonald's fan personally, but it's close to our apartment and it allows for exercise on rainy days. For that reason we go there a lot, but usually I buy an 89 cent burger as our ticket to the play land (we don't even always eat it). This week as an extra special summer treat I actually ordered 2 happy meals for the four of us to split. How's that for a splurge?

6. MUD!!!

Have I mentioned the rain? Well, even if it isn't rainy you can still see the evidence of the recent weather in the mud that hangs around for the after party. Not to be detoured, I allowed SJ to indulge in the party and her brothers joined in a little too. We got some looks, especially when she ran across the parking lot at our apartment wearing just some dirty underwear and an unzipped hoodie. I was trying to cover her with a towel, but she's quick and it just so happened to be when everyone was getting home from work. Oh well. You're only young once I say. 

Next up father's day festivities and dental appointments. Onward.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The First Week of Summer

AHHHHH! I have tried to publish this blog post since Monday and here it is Friday (basically) and still have yet to share my first week of summer with world. How devastating. This time I am determined.

Summer has been busy. Hopefully it will stay that way and go by fast. My plans are to share some of our "boredom buster" activities on a weekly basis. I have a few reasons for doing this. One is my ongoing attempt at bottling up these priceless moments. Two, I have googled and Pinterested (or whatever you call it) ways to fill our endless summer days only to find that there are ENDLESS suggestions. I am not really worried that the internet needs yet another mommy blogger hitting up this topic, but hey, you never know. One of my ideas might spark something for someone else, although many of these activities are very specific to our location/schedule. Also, I might be the one looking back through them this time next year when I am trying to figure out how I managed all summer long.

Anyway, let's get this started with last week's boredom busters. This one's definitely going to be more packed than most because SJ was not in summer school so we had a little getaway at my parents.

1. Ohio's Presidents at Union Terminal

We were given a membership to the Cicinnati Museum Center, and they have 100 days of summer fun where you can count on special activities everyday. The highlight of our trip last week was when Z participated in a special session they had all about the Ohio presidents. Z LOVES American history and we are currently working on learning the 50 state capitals. Z think it's fun and we make a game out of it. I am not trying to rob him of the joy of vegging out over the next 3 months, but if the kid wants to learn I am certainly not going to stand in the way either. I have seen so much anti-summer enrichment essays online that I worry someone will stone me for doing anything educational during his time off. That's a side note.

2. Chalk

Z's teacher sent home an end of the year gift of sidewalk chalk along with a note that said "Hope your summer is CHALK full of fun." So we definitely let the fun begin with this favorite boredom buster.

3. Trees

Z had 5 stitches when he was three years old after falling (not very far) out of tree. He still has a serious scar on his chin, yet I still let them climb. There are so many benefits to healthy risk taking. I can give links to studies, but do I really need to do that? Experts agree it is a dying art form that needs to be revived. I read an article that said "Last year, almost three times as many children were admitted to the hospital after falling out of bed as those who had fallen from a tree." Z has been taken to the ER for falling out of tree and falling out of bed. In the same year. Glad I could contribute to both sides of the spectrum (not really). 

4. Smores

While visiting my parents we also had time with some other family members including my niece, shown in the tire swing photo above.

One night we had a cook out with a bon fire and smores. We sang camp songs and even SJ, or should I say especially SJ, wanted to contribute with song ideas and sign along. This is a huge milestone!

5. Visiting Old Friends

What better time to catch up with old friends than during the summer. We got to meet with SJ's original therapists from Louisville and they were able to see just how far she has come. We had a wonderful time. I am so so so grateful for these ladies.

6. Delta Field Trip

It was bring your kids to work day at Delta and grandchildren are included, so Z and SJ got to talk to a pilot

 and get a backstage pass to learn about how everything works at the airport. This included the fire rescue and K-9 police division.

 We saw a black lab sniff out a suit case and they got to get inside a massive firetruck, blow the horn, and watch all the water spray out.

I enjoyed it as much as they did!

As you can see there was not much room for boredom. The kids slept well that week.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Progress Report

SJ's last day of school was on Tuesday. She goes back again on Monday for summer school though. Speaking of which, I have a praise report about that. Last year we lived outside of Ohio so we had to do a great big fundraiser to collect the $800 she would need for the program. You may remember that. This year since we moved we were supposed to get funding through our counties developmental disability services. Turns out they ran out of money. I didn't even know that could happen. Panic struck, but I just did not feel led to try to get all of the money on my own like I did last year. The school helped us apply for some grants and today I got an email saying it was all covered through the Building Blocks 4 Kids foundation. I will share more about that later.

We went through some tough times here recently with SJ not wanting to wear her cochlear implant at home. I am fine with her taking a break her and there, but this was starting to happen far too often. I talked to the team at her school during one of my parent education sessions and I hate to say I shot down their ideas left and right, but I did. I wasn't trying to be difficult, it's just that I had tried it all before. Then her teacher mentioned perhaps decorating the implants or letting her pick out her bows and head band. She knew that SJ enjoys dressing herself and showcasing her own sense of style. I told them I would give it a try. Every set of implants comes with a cover that you can put on the outside to add some flair. Long story short, we've been alternating covers and it has helped a ton! She isn't wearing the headbands as often and that can be a hassle, because her ears are so small and the devices so big, but I am just glad she's wearing them. 

I feel very encouraged as we close the chapter of this school year. This is the first time she was able to start and finish a program. After her diagnosis we went from doctor to doctor and therapist to therapist. There was a lot of change and adjustment in that season. Now that we have settled on this school for her we are staying. It's like I said about not moving from our apartment, it's the slightest sense of stability. I like that. 

As I look back at where we were last year tears come to my eyes. We were still working on the idea of listening and responding to her name which is something I don't even think about anymore. At the end of school last year she had about a dozen words, now she has hundreds. I can't keep track, and every time I turn around I hear her say things I didn't realize the she new like "basket, shovel, scoot back, tomorrow…" The latest sentences she has said completely on her own that have taken me off guard are

Daddy HAS keys
I want CHOCOLATE milk
I NEED help WITH socks
Mommy sit RIGHT HERE
I DON'T like chicken NASTY (compared to "no chicken" or just a complete melt downa couple months ago)

I capitalized some of the words that she recently added.  

She is doing great, but I have never once thought that it was all happening quicker than I expected. I don't take any of her progress for granted, but it feels like a "slowly but surely" process. I am so glad that she has ended this school year on a good note though. It's encouraging and I need all the motivation I can get to cross the bridge of the summer.