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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Track Meet Wrap Up


This afternoon, I had no idea how much emotion I was going to feel when we showed up for Luke's track meet.  Months earlier, Luke begged me to sign him up for track.  I admit I was nervous.  He hasn't participated in an after school sport before.  There is a process by which allowing him to participate in track requires that I have to "let go" and allow him to navigate the world without me.  I agreed to track and in turn allowed him the opportunity to grow. 
Participation in track would mean Luke would have to remember what days to not get on the bus to come home.  He would have to find his way to track practice and navigate where he could change into his track clothes.  Luke would have to keep track of his coat, backpack and lunch box on his own.  I realize that a lot of this should sound simple enough for a 10 year old, but for a kiddo with special needs it is a lot of change in routine and would require he pay attention to detail.  That left this mama biting her nails.   
Luke accomplished all of his goals for participating in track and I couldn't be more proud!  He attended all the practices and knew everything about what was expected of him at the meet.  He even selected the four events that he wanted to participate in (standing long jump, 400 meter relay, 100 meter dash and throwing the mini javelin).
He was even selected for the team tug-o-war competition.  Yes that is my son posing for the camera prior to the event!  LOVE HIM!  
The track meet was held at McKenzie Stadium.  It is a special place for me.  I watched many high school football games during my high school career. Also Mark and I graduated from High School together at that stadium in 1997.  I walked down the hill into the stands and the memories came flooding.  The sights, sounds and smells...all the same.  I had to fight back the tears.  It was weird and I didn't expect that reaction.  I decided to sit where my family sat when we graduated from high school.  It was close enough so I could watch Luke, but far enough away to let him be with the group.   
 
I watched Luke compete in his four events.  He finished 4th in the tug-o-war and last place in everything else.  One might think I would be sad he didn't do better, but it was quite the opposite.  I could careless what place he came in.  He did it!  LUKE.ACCOMPLISHED.SOMETHING.BIG!  He followed social rules, didn't argue, didn't become upset when he wasn't first.  He tried a new thing, he wasn't afraid!  Luke put his heart and soul into that track meet.  He was really slow, but it didn't matter.  As I watched him running his heart out during the relay on the opposite side of the track, I couldn't keep the tears from falling.  I learn so much from him.  He taught me that you can't let your fear hold you back from trying new things.  He is my HERO!
I was talking with my mom a bit while waiting for Luke to compete in his different events.  I told her this was so weird to be at McKenzie Stadium with my own children.  It wasn't that long ago I was their and she was the parent.  Mom reminded me that time keeps marching on.  It does.  I'm 34 years old now.  My kids are experiencing things that I have connections to.  I can't help thinking maybe this is part of our legacy to them.  Putting down roots in the same place we had roots.  So many memories for me, now are becoming memories for them.  Time marches on.  I wouldn't doubt that someday I will sit in the same place my parents did and watch them graduate from the same stage.  And now I am doing the big ugly mama cry.  Because I don't want to let go.  I don't want them to experience failure or hurt or pain.  But I know I have too.  I don't want to.  But I need to let them take more risks and reap the benefits of success or learn from the lessons of failure.   
It's true...Luke amazes me.  His tenacity of purpose, his zest for life, his internal joy that spills out to EVERYONE he crosses paths with.  What a gift he is!  What a blessing!
 
And just for kicks...this is the way Miss B was the ENTIRE track meet.  She HATED the loud sounds and air horns.  I got some awfully nice stares from the older couple in front of us regarding her crying...whatever...I was there to cheer on my son! 
 
So today Luke...I celebrate you and your accomplishments!  Thank you for pushing mommy to do track, because I learned a lot of important lessons.  I am SO proud of you! Till next year...when I have two of them in track!  Grace has already announced she will be running next year!  You go girl!  Mama will be there cheering you on too! 

Thursday's Therapy Tool: Weighted Compression Vest

For the next couple of months, on Thursdays, I would like to feature a therapy "tool" or activity we use in our home.  I know I have several readers of this blog that have kiddos with special needs or sensory needs just like mine.  Being a special needs mom and special educator, I thought I might dedicate Thursdays to blogging about some therapy "helps".
 
The first "tool" I would like to share about is Luke's "Weighted Compression Vest."  In the past we have used the weighted vest and compression shirts separately.  The weighted vest is grounding, while the compression shirt provides tight continuous pressure over his torso.  The "Weighted Vest" is an awesome combination of both the weights and pressure. 



This vest was generously given to us by an anonymous donor through Luke's occupational therapy center.  A grant was written by Luke's therapist and we were approved.  It was purchased through Fun and Function.  This is what Fun and Function wrote on their website to describe above vest:
 
"Our weighted compression vest is made to calm and provide steady pressure so your kids can focus and learn. Combined pressure and side weights function as a reassuring deep hug. Made of neoprene, the vests are designed for comfort with soft mesh material on the sides to increase air flow and overall comfort. Hook and loop closures on the sides allow for maximum comfort, easy sizing, and quick removal.

Weights are safely positioned in pockets inside the vest and can be added or removed. Vests include two 1/2 pound weights and four 1/4 pound weights for a total of 2 pounds (Except for xx-small which contains 4 1/4 pound weights.)
Additional weights available- 1/2 lb weights fits all sizes and 1 lb weights fits sizes M-XL. Machine washable in cold water when weights are removed." 
 
Here is what the individual weights look like that are enclosed in pockets on the inside of the vest.  The weights are distributed evenly.
 

Here is the back view of Luke's Weighted Compression Vest.  It's hook and loop closures allow us to get the vest as tight as he wants it.  Luke is known to seek out this vest when his body is feeling out of control.  This last weekend for example, he was having a difficult time regulating his body and he went and grabbed the vest and put it on.  When he felt better, he removed it.  I have seen him do this numerous times.
Here is mister man happy in his vest!  We ordered the small.  Note that the vests run big and I recommend measuring the torso to find the exact fit.  This vest costs 52.99 and can be ordered by clicking here (Fun and Function's website).  We are so appreciative of the donor that allowed us to use this vest.  I highly recommend this product because of the combination of weight and pressure.  It also can be worn under clothes and not be too noticeable.   

Monday, May 27, 2013

Funny Faces

Dear Miss B,
Seriously...how can you be this grown up already?  Sheesh...when did you turn 3 really? Your a little lady and a delight!  Weren't you just born?  How fast does time really go?  I am desperate to at least slow it down a little.  Please???  


You make me laugh ALL.THE.TIME!  Such as in the below photographs.  What's up with all your silly faces?

I love the scrunched up look!  You're adorable!

This look is priceless!!!  "Seriously...you want to take a picture of me, I can't be bothered right now."  

Love you Miss B!
Your adoring Mama (who turned 34 years old today)!

So my fellow friends....how does one make time slow down?  Or how do you record your memories?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday Mornings & the Mess

Ok...I am going to be real with you all :) Lately...my reality at home looks like this a lot.  And it drives.me.crazy!!!
I sent these pictures to my mom earlier this week and asked her if she was having a difficult time breathing :) Hehehe... 
 
I have to give my mom credit, growing up...our house NEVER looked like this...EVER!  I am actually embarrassed to post these, but it is life and truth and a memory of a season in my life.  These pictures represent what happens when I do no cleaning or picking up for 24 hours.  We had gone to a really fun birthday party the night before, and then we had church the next morning. 
 
Seriously...I'm not working now and this is what my house looks like.  Any one have any tips for me?  Help?  Advice?  It really does drive me nuts and I want to be different.  My difficulties come when I clean up one area or mess only to find two more areas destroyed by "little helpers".  :)  Love them, but man they are tornadoes.  The other issue is sometimes I choose to play Wii, or board games, or read books and then by the time everyone is in bed with everything they all need, I am exhausted and ready for bed myself. 
 
Monday in our home is grocery shopping day.  I loath taking all 3 kids to the grocery stores, so taking just Miss B is nice.  And even though she has a mind all her own, we have fun adventures such as our time at the "monkey store" as my kids call Trader Joe's.  She insists on pushing the "baby cart".  We load all our items up and then we have to find the monkey.
 
 
The employees hide the monkey in a different spot each day.  If the kids find him they ring the bell and give them a lollipop.  The monkey was "hiding" way up high today, but no worries, Bella found him. :)
 
 It never fails that something I see on our Monday grocery shopping days reminds me of my dad.  This white van is from a retirement home called Van Vista.  My dad used to deliver food to residents of that home when our church had the food bank.  It made me smile to think dad might be watching at that moment.   
A quick run through Starbucks drive thru to grab my favorite drink before our next store is part of the routine.  The little voice from the backseat pipes up and asks, "I have ice water pease?"  She has her routine too :) 

 Our final grocery stop is Winco.  We pick up a few things and Bella "helps". 

Part of my weekly grocery shopping routine is renting a Redbox.  Silly I know...but its fun to look forward to renting any movie I want.

Then it's back home to put everything away and clean.  I am happy to report I got most everything cleaned today and put away.  I even managed to go through the kids therapy/school room and clean out all the crayons, markers, mismatched game pieces.

But even as I type this, I am looking at my family room floor where dirty clothes, toys and a back pack have escaped.  Its a never ending battle, a season in my life that I am trying to embrace. :)  I think it's time to watch my Redbox...the mess can wait!





 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dear Mom...

Dear Mom...Where does one even start?  How can you sum up an entire life's sacrifice, love and care? Surely you cannot express it all in a card, a meal or a gift.  No amount of "thank you" will fully capture what it means to give of yourself sacrificially to little ones, who turn into teenagers, who turn into adults, who then have little ones of their own.  But...on this day of which we express our gratitude, love and thanks for mothers I will try and capture what "mom" means to me.

Dear Mom...this year has been an awesome one.  We have been blessed to experience some incredible fun things together as mother and daughter.  Things that we only once talked and dreamed about. For me, the highlight really was our trip to Hawaii!  Gone in a minute...but the memories will last forever.  You always are a great support and help, but this year you have really been there for me in more ways than just "watching the kids," (which you have done many times and I am very thankful).  But other things come to mind, like picking me up (so to speak) in February and helping me think clearly. For doing ALL my laundry at the laundromat and getting hit on by the weird guy who wanted to know if you were available?  Love it!  For moving back to Vancouver to be closer...for all the little things (they don't go unnoticed).  For talking and praying with me through the skin cancer scare, and celebrating when we got the "good news". 

Dear Mom...thank you for always being my sounding board and my supporter.  I need a sounding board to work out this little thing called LIFE!  Thank you for loving my little munchkins.

Mother's day will ALWAYS remain a bittersweet day for me. Joy and pain, life and death, happiness and grief.  There is not one without the other in this day.  It is impossible to erase so many years of pain and longing to be a mother.  Last year I wrote about my pain surrounding Mother's Day, you can read about it here .
Mother's day is also a reminder of the three babies that I lost.  A reminder of the mother I will never get to be to them.  Whose faces I have never seen, whose scent I have never smelled, whose perfect baby bodies I have never rocked.  All of those firsts (smiling, rolling over, giggling, crawling, first steps, first foods, first everything) will remain a scar over my worn heart.     




Mother's day is also about redemption.  In the midst of my grief, God was weaving together all of our lives, a story, a family.  Luke and Grace were chosen in a divine nature to be a part of our family. Through my grief and tragedy, through their pain and loss, HE took brokenness and stitched us back together in a new and different way.  Through adoption, I was redeemed from "barren" to "mother", they were redeemed from "orphan" to "son" and "daughter".  A type of holy exchange that, I, in my humanness could never accomplish.      

Children born to another woman call me “Mom.” The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me. ~Jody Landers
Mother's day is also about the miracle.  This spirited, blond haired, blue eyed, smarty pants, Nyhoff clone, 3 year old with a sense of humor and personality plus.  My living, breathing, everyday miracle!  I believe all my kids to be a miracle, but this is the baby the doctor said would never be, the baby the doctor told me wouldn't survive so "why prolong the inevitable" (meaning miscarriage).  I have never prayed so hard for something than I did that first 12 weeks of her pregnancy.  At the end of the 12 weeks the doctor declared from his mouth my baby "was a miracle!"   I claimed it and didn't look back.  A continuous reminder that NOTHING is IMPOSSIBLE!
For me, becoming a mother was very difficult.  My road down life's journey being a mother is marked with what I can imagine most mother's lives are marked with: difficultly, happiness, joy, worry, grief, hope, incredible love.  The "official" moment I became a mother was not in hospital after 16 hours of labor.  It came in 2nd floor court room on Franklin Street, surrounded by friends and family.  It came after an 18 month long labor of fighting for him, jumping through hoops, visitation and welcoming DCFS into our home.  I became a mother next to a lawyer and in front of judge (not a doctor).  Yet...the finality of what occurred in the court room was no different from the outcome of a hospital room.  "Do you promise to care for Luke as if he was born to you?" the judge asked us both.  "Yes and yes!"  He signed the court papers.  BOOM.  I was a mom!
Two Mother's Days later, same floor, another courtroom, more promises made before lawyers, judges and the such.  More papers signed...Mom again.  This time to miss Grace. 
My hospital initiation into motherhood finally came.  An unbelievable experience that I will never forget.  It forever changed how I view so many things.  It healed some areas of my life and intensified the sorrow in others. 
Being "mom" to these 3 blessings, is an undertaking that I take extremely seriously.  I won't lie...it is difficult, but it is also rewarding.  Each with their own set of special needs, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, their own dreams and hopes.  My job to train, to guide, to give them every opportunity possible to succeed in this crazy life. 
Some weeks I feel like I am just "holding on" for the ride.  Between therapies, medical appointments and making sure they each get what they need I am exhausted!  It leaves little time for much anything else, but it is a privilege to serve, give and pour myself into them. 
On days I feel down, I consider the alternative.  The life they could be living if I weren't their mom.  The life they were born in to (poverty, homelessness, addiction, hunger, neglect).  I am privileged to be their mom, blessed to help them become who they are going to be.  Wiping the tears, wiping the hands, wiping down the dirt that they accumulate in the world.  Building their character, building their faith, building their confidence, building them up.  Job of mom. 

Many think I am amazing to do what I do.  I don't consider myself to be anything amazing.  I do what I do because I am mom.  I do what I do because I have an amazing support system, cheering section and encouragers.  They got my back!  I am so thankful for these two ladies in the below picture.  They lift me up, they can speak truth and know what I need when I need it! 
My babies, my blessings.  Mom and children with a beautiful story of pain to redemption, grief to restoration ,being woven together in story that was created for us.  
My aunt sent me this great link today and I thought I would join the encouragement of the many ways we can become mom. :) 
Dear Weary Mom Link-Up | Thursdays at www.hopeforthewearymom.com

Encouragement and blessings!
~Carissa 















Wednesday, May 1, 2013

MSP Meltdown

I am and educator and a mother and I will be the first to confess to you that I HATE state testing, especially for those sweeties that have special needs.  Whatever they have been putting in the water at Luke's school regarding the state testing MSP (Measurement of Student Progress) has really hyped him up.  He is wound up so tightly it hasn't taken much for him to blow up at any of us. 
 
His test anxiety has really been unlike anything I have seen from him before.  He just keeps saying, "I just want it to be over mom!"  His eyes fill with tears and I stand there helpless to fix it, make it better or help him succeed. 
 
I decided to call Anthony (Luke's therapist at Family Solutions) after Luke's first major meltdown this weekend regarding the ridiculous state testing.  Seriously...Anthony.is.amazing!  Hands down, perfect match for Luke.  Anthony understands Luke, and I was thanking my lucky stars he had lots of ideas to help his test anxiety.  A shout out of thanks!
 
First...we made a list of all Luke's worries regarding the MSP.  My heart sinks at what my sweet Luke thinks about this test. :(
 

Luke writes: I am worried I will get all the questions wrong.
I am worried I won't go to the 5th grade.
Worried I have to stay after school 30 minutes if I don't finish on time.
President going to get my test scores.
Talk during the test.
Held back.
Won't pass the test.
My fifth grade teacher will be cross with me (regarding poor test scores).
 
Seriously...my baby has so much worry over a stupid, stupid test!  I just want the makers of this testing to come spend some time with my son and decide if this test was in his best interest.  And while he does have accommodations, I don't know what they are really doing.  Are they really accommodating for him?  The way he needs to be?  It is these moments that I wonder am I doing the very best for my child?  Am I putting him in a situation that isn't good, but one that I think is good?  I am struggling with all this self doubt.
 
Anthony suggested we label Luke's worries into 3 categories (true, unsure, and false).  Most all of his worries were false.  I then had Luke erase them and told him he needs to erase those from his mind (because they are not true).
We made a step-by-step plan of his test day so he would know what to expect.  Luke is concrete.  He thrives on lists.
 
Finally Anthony suggested a positive statement that we can keep saying to Luke over and over so that he has something to repeat to himself.  Most of the statement was Anthony's idea but we tweaked it at the end with a little Luke language. 
 
I am just praying we survive the testing processes, I could careless if he passes the stupid tests or not! 
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