Sunday, December 20, 2009

9198 miles!!!

This past year, Mike and I have kept careful track of the miles we've driven for medical purposes. Our tax accountant had encouraged us this direction, and it has turned out to be a good decision for several reasons.

With one more trip still to endure to Mary Bridge Children's Hospital, our mileage total for medical only will be 9,198 miles for 2009! WOW! It's a little mind-boggling, to say the least.

Most of all, I feel humbled by that number. Jennica's SPD, while severe to us and her, is relatively minor compared to a terminal illness or so many other conditions. Our rural location makes it a necessity to travel a fair distance for Sensory-based OT, and virtually every other service, but that number could be SO much higher. And is much higher for so many families with children needing medical care.

Bottom line......Mike and I are not wealthy, but we can afford to make the needed travel to and from all these different places to ensure that our daughter is receiving the best medical care available. My self-employment allows me to schedule my work around her appointments. Is it still sometimes an inconvenience? Yes. Does it get tiresome having to constantly juggle this with that and be gone so much? Yes. Has my business profit level suffered this year because of it? Yes. But would I choose to do it any differently? Definitely not.

I guess that sometimes I feel like we need to do big things in order to help out a family during a medical crisis. This past year of the relatively minor experience of Jennica's medical needs have made me more sensitive to realizing that sometimes.......a gas card for a family might help more than we ever imagined.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wanna wrestle this? wanna wrestle this?? ME NEITHER!!!

Grant has always been "the quiet one" of my four children. He is introspective, mathematically brilliant, kind, gentle, and has always been physically small for his age.

Well........I'm here to tell age 14, he is suddenly taller than I am (yeah.....not saying much, I know). He is also carrying a 4.0 GPA, becoming more vocal, self-confident, and is developing a wild sense of humor. And...he's buff! A true beefcake!

Grant--what a great honor it is to be your Mom. I'm proud of all you've accomplished in football and wrestling this fall, and look forward to your basketball season after the New Year. You're also a great brother, student, friend, and human being.

Love you!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bah Humbug in true SPD-style

If it were up to little folks afflicted with Sensory Processing Disorder, Christmas programs and concerts would be outlawed. My daughter, along with a gazillion other SPD kiddos, believes that there is not much worse than dressing up in snazzy clothes, enduring the hair-combing/tooth-brushing/face-washing/gussying, and being placed in front of a large crowd of staring human faces. On top of all that, you are going to be told to stand or sit in close proximity to other children, and tolerate loud racket (otherwise known as singing and/or playing musical instruments). Oh......and endure it all with a smile and don't punch the kid next to you, no matter what they do to annoy you. Yeah.......sure.

This has been a tough week at school for our ENTIRE school. Elevated behavioral outbursts are pretty typical to the last week before a major holiday in any elementary school, but given the recent passing of one of our most beloved teachers, the staff is also admitting that they are all a little "off". Of course, the kids sense that their teachers are "off" and are responding with increased whiny-ness and rotten behavior. Our entire school family NEEDS this Christmas break to heal a bit from Joan's passing, which is certainly understandable. But with the Christmas Program this week and a ton of other out-of-routine events going on, Jennica has not been at her finest.

So.......Mike and I made a tough decision today after input from her teacher and weighing all the considerations and options. We've talked the's time to walk the walk. Jennica will be allowed to "skip" the Christmas Program tonight. Part of me is very disappointed. There is something very parental about seeing your child participate in those types of events. But we honestly don't feel it is a situation where she can be successful FOR HER. So why have her participate? Just so we can feel like parents? Just so we can prove that she can stand across the gym from us and be miserable for an hour? Just so we can once again watch SPD in action? Nah.......that's not what our daughter's journey is about.

I'm very thankful to Jennica's teacher for being honest with us about the expectations tonight. The program is one hour long, and her class sings two short songs at the very beginning, sits for 50 minutes on the bleachers with no activity, and then sings one more song at the end. During the 50 minutes of inactivity, they are expected to hold relatively still and listen to the 1st thru 6th graders sing, and then listen to the 5th & 6th grade bands. All while they are stared at by a crowd of 300+ adults. The auditory and visual input of this experience will send Jennica reeling into tactile-seeking input, as her auditory and visual systems will shut down in overload. Her brain will automatically seek input from tactile sensations and movement. (Her teacher noted that 10 minutes into practice this morning, Jen peeled off her shoes and socks, and then her coat. And then she proceeded to roll on the bleachers. Yep...........tactile input. Next comes spinning in circles, jumping up and down, or running around the gym. All in an effort to maintain adequate information for the brain to "read" the environment without fully-functioning auditory and visual systems. But not really socially-acceptable in the middle of a Christmas Program.)

So Jen and I are going to watch Grant's last wrestling meet of the year. We will enjoy a short drive together, eat some dinner, and relax. She can run around the gym. She can wiggle. And I can relax and not wait for her to "totally lose it." And I will remember that this is my daughter's journey, and know that I honored what was best FOR HER.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Wrestling Photos...

Dane with the "I'm gonna die!" look. :)

Grant (on bottom) just waiting to "work his magic" on his own teammate!

Dane is wrestling this year at 160 pounds, and he looks tall and skinny against the competition that we've seen him against. Wrestlers, as a whole, tend to carry their weight low and wide, which is not Dane's build at this point. I'm glad he's not going to work much at getting his weight lower, and he maintains easily at this weight. Even with that said, the team eats healthy during the week and tends to splurge on chocolate before the bus ride home from their meets on Saturdays. LOL. Also, check out the RED banana-boat-size 11 1/2 wrestling shoes. Our school colors are red and black, but our high school wrestling is a combined team of three local schools, so they wear purple and dark green during the regular season, which is a "neutral" combination and can't be associated with any of those three schools. Once we get into the championship events at the end of the year, the team splits back out to their individual schools and wears their own school colors. But until then......In any case, Dane CHOSE to buy these red shoes. Not sure why. But they look with the purple singlets. LOL.

Grant is wrestling at 120 pounds right now and I will admit to being shocked last week at his meet when he stripped his warm-ups. I hadn't seen him that close-to-naked since summer swimming, and he is now much more fit. Grant has the much broader-shouldered wrestling body type, and his arms are pretty defined. (I came home and called him Beefcake, which he thought was hysterical.) He has a much better grasp of the sport than I anticipated, and won a very difficult match in the last 2 seconds last week against one of his own teammates. He was actually behind in points with 5 seconds to go, and knew exactly the "move" he needed to perform to score the necessary points to win it. Heh.

Anyway......nice to see them both enjoying their current sport. For some reason, wrestling feels more "relaxed" to me than football or basketball. Wrestlers are an odd bunch, but they enjoy each other. So........whatever works!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Blessed simplicity!!

Tiersten came home from school yesterday and said her day went, "Good!" Considering that her teacher passed away unexpectedly on Monday, and the children have been shadowed by grief counselors ever since, I was impressed! I know that most 6 & 7-year-olds don't totally grasp the concept of death, but I thought that by now, she might be feeling the strain of all the sudden changes. Not to mention that Tiersten (and most other children this age) is very intuitive about what is expected by the adults around her. Even Tuesday morning arriving at school for the first time since being informed of Ms. Leach's passing, you could see her and all of her friends gauging the adults' faces for how to "mimic" what was appropriate behavior for the situation. (I'm humbled, yet again, by just how much OUR actions effect those of the children around us!!)

Anyway.......back to the topic. When Mike asked Tiersten what had made her day so good, she only said one thing. "Mrs. Reinen (the substitute) only has one rule in her class. We only have ONE thing to remember. That's it!" She was SO clearly delighted by the simplicity. When prompted for what that rule was? "Always do the right thing."

That one simple 5-word sentence really encompasses what the only rule needs to be for all of us in life, doesn't it? Always do the right thing. In practice, of course, it is harder than it sounds, but for my daughter's chaotic week, it meant SO much to her to have simplicity in the transition.

To Mrs. Reinen (Vivian)..........THANK YOU! These children will forever remember the day that their first grade teacher died. For most of them, it is their first experience with the death of a loved one. THANK YOU for stepping forward and, with your experience, knowing that these children needed simplicity.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Still teaching us......even after she's gone

Yesterday, Tiersten's schoolteacher became ill at school and went home. Yesterday afternoon, she passed away unexpectedly.

Ms. Leach was the principal of Raymond Elementary for many years before retiring from that position and returning to the 1st grade classroom to finish out a long career in education. She was the only elementary principal that my boys ever knew, and we were thrilled this year that our request was granted for Tiersten to be placed in her 1st grade class. I always considered her to be an outstanding principal, but she was absolutely phenomenal in the classroom.

I still remember my first Parent's Night with Dane as a kindergartener. Ms. Leach was new to our school, and I was new to being a parent of a school-age child. She stood at the front of a large crowd, and exuded such warmth and excitement for the business of learning. In all the years that I knew her, she never lost that! I'm sure there had to be days that her job was tiring and challenging, but she always seemed so genuinely honored to be a part of my children's lives. And, as a truly great leader should, she always credited her terrific staff for the dramatic improvements that our school made while she was principal. Never once did I hear her accept well-deserved praise without passing the compliment on to her staff.

When she announced her intention to resign as principal and return to the classroom for her last few years before retirement, I was honestly skeptical. Would it be fair to a new principal to have the previous "chief" still on the premises? Could the staff accept her as a peer, rather than their leader? Could she narrow her world to the smaller arena of a classroom?

I should never have doubted her. From the day they hired the new principal (who is also fantastic), Joan was delighted to hand over the reins and begin the transition. On the first day of school last year, she was so excited to get her 20 kids in her room and re-immerse herself in the experience of a smaller group. I heard stories from her student's parents that watched with awe as she made tiny schedule changes in the curriculum that had large impacts on differing learning styles. I quickly learned to walk by her classroom slowly in the hallway, as the giggles and conversation from her students was such a happy sound of learning.

And Joan was also a class act outside the school. She was actively involved in so many areas of the community. so much more. Always dressed in bright, stylish colors, her blonde hair cut in a sassy style.....she was hard to miss. On Fridays, she tended to don crazy glasses or silly hats, just to make the kids laugh. In the mornings before school, and the afternoons as school let out, she was almost always in the hallway. Hugging kids that needed a little "extra," chatting with parents, and interacting. Always interacting.

Tiersten has had a phenomenal first four months of school this year. Ms. Leach was loved by the kids, but not because she let them rest on their laurels. She was there to educate.....and educate she did. At the school's request, each child in her class was told about her passing by their own family, in the manner that they chose appropriate with their own beliefs, and they gathered back as a class at the school today, with grief counselors on hand. Typical to 6 and 7-year-olds, they are saddened, but death is an abstract concept that isn't quite real.

At the moment, the community is focusing efforts on helping Joan's two young granddaughters-- both who lived with her full-time. At the request of the extended family, the school district is taking the "lead" on planning her memorial service this weekend. It will be huge and well-attended with a large meal to follow. She made us all feel like family, and we will honor her accordingly.

I spoke this evening to the retired teacher chosen to step in and substitute with Tiersten's class until decisions for the longer-term future can be made. Vivian was a long-term member of Joan's staff, was a close personal friend to Joan, was herself a phenomenal teacher, and is the perfect choice for this position at a challenging time. I can't think of anyone better to help the kids make the necessary adjustments, so that the entire first grade year doesn't become a loss of learning. Vivian was an amazing and honest presence in the classroom this morning, as the kids gathered together for the first time without their teacher. She told me this evening that she arrived at the school early this morning, grieving her close friend, and wanting to honor her in the best way possible by helping her young students understand what has happened. She had a list of things she knew she needed to get done before the class began arriving..........organize some art supplies for a grief exercise that might be helpful, find the gradebook and begin figuring out if there was anything urgent that needed addressed there, walk through the classroom and familiarize herself with student names, get a feel for the daily schedule as sticking to a routine will be comforting to the kids. And then she said that she stopped, and suddenly noticed a Christmas tree in the corner of the room. Gifts were wrapped and had been carefully placed beneath it. She thought, "No.........she couldn't have already..........." So she went closer to the tree and looked at each gift. Sure enough. Our beloved teacher had already shopped for and wrapped a Christmas gift for each child in her class. With her sudden passing, those gifts have gained so much more significance. A final act of love to her students from a teacher that always gave her all.

Even after she's gone, she's still teaching us about what it means to be a classy lady. We love you, Joan! You will be missed!!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Catching up....soon!

Yes...........I'm still around. I promise! We've had a very busy few weeks 'round here and I'm lagging behind on blogging. Let me give a brief rundown. Very brief--considering it is 11:00 pm on a Sunday and I've been working all day. UGH!

-Both boys are heavy into wrestling now. Both are doing well, and Dane even got a 4th place medal at his first meet. Wahoo! Grant seems to win either by pin or landslide points, or get beat in the first 30 seconds. :) His "wins" FAR outweigh his losses though. He's a tough little turkey!

-We have survived Rounds 1, 2 & 3 with Jennica's sleep and seizure testing. We were supposed to be done after Round 3, but our neurologist has upgraded (or downgraded.....depending on your perspective) her to a 48-hour VEEG in January. I whined about Rounds 1-3, so quite frankly, I think I'm being punished. This will be a LONG haul and requires full admission into Mary Bridge Hospital for two full days. She will be on a 6-foot leash for 48 hours straight. And no, she will not be in a drug-induced slumber. Darn it anyway. We meet with the neurologist on the 21st for more information on why he is ordering this highest-level of brain analysis, so I'll post more when I know more. So much for thinking that sleep deprivation and wires were a challenge.

-My computer system continues to plot against me, which is making my life difficult. Also a big reason that I haven't been blogging much. I will likely be ordering an entirely new system (again) rather than spend (waste) the money on repair. Quite frankly, its more financially efficient to replace with newer and better technology rather than repair. You know how you don't think automobile air conditioning is a big deal until you've had it? I feel that way on this crummy laptop that my assistant uses daily. I can no longer live without dual monitors. WAAAAAAH. Whine........whine........whine.

-Some big holiday is coming soon. Must get ready. Must decorate. Hmmm...When? All I'm going to say is thank the heavens for and UPS delivery. Even ordering on this laptop beats running around for the next three weeks like a chicken with my head cut off. :)

My brain is exhausted, so I'm headed to bed. Will post wrestling photos soon, and other kid photos. I have pictures on my cell phone of Jennica with wires coming out of her head, but can't off-load them without the big 'puter fully operational. AAAahhhhh.