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Friday, August 31, 2012


"Delayed"...the word is heavy on my heart as my mind tries to process the latest news regarding our 3rd little one.  Even though I have existed in this "world" (special needs) since 2004, I feel as though I am in unfamiliar territory, almost a newbie again.  True...the state of Washington recognizes me as a "special education teacher".  Yes I am trained and capable to meet the educational, emotional and physical needs of special little people, but when I look at her it is with a "mama's" heart and not a "teacher's".  I step out of the "driver's seat" so to speak, and into the "parent role".  And.My.Heart.Breaks! 

My Bella has ALWAYS had a very SPECIAL personality.  From the minute she was born we have been EXTREMELY bonded. Perhaps it was the way she was created, perhaps I held on so much because I had waited so long to be pregnant and have a baby!  Perhaps I held on so much because I felt that in some way she was a connection to my 3 babies that I miscarried.  I would hold her as an infant and wonder if my others would have looked like her, if they would have smelled like her and made precious nosies like her.  I held on so much that I really didn't share her with anyone else.  I look back now and think I made a mistake holding on so much.  She doesn't willingly even go to her Mimi and Papa or Grandma and Grandpa.!  And theirs too.  Forget strangers or saying hi to other adults and kids.  She just buries her face in my shoulder or gives you the "stink eye." 

I thought Miss B would outgrow it, but last month I began to notice some red flags.  We navigated through all the right channels.  Phone calls, screenings, and then evaluation.  Final delay, adaptive delay, sensory processing disorder.  Her "team" feels that most all of the issues are interrelated with the sensory disorder.  So Bella B will join her brother on the occupational therapy schedule.  Although they will go to separate places.  When she gets closer to 3, we will see if she will go to the special education preschool that Luke went too.  Oh...goodness...the thought scares me. 

My brain is trying to process all this information.  What went wrong?  Did I do something?  Is there something I could have done?  What now?  My heart hurts for the fact she has had these delays and I haven't done anything about it.  But now that I know, I feel like more "grace" is given to her and patience knowing that these are her set of "special needs." 

I have cried A LOT of tears this week!  Transitions are difficult for me too.  I started back to work this week.  It has been going well, but I am adjusting to a new schedule.  And so is Bella.  Then I was given the results of her eval, and the kids met their new teachers...well sort of (another story).  Grace's new teacher was sick and not at the open house.  It was not the best situation for a girl that is very anxious about going back to school.  Nothing had been done to her classroom.  I tried to highlight the positives, but there were boxes laying around every where in the classroom.  Eeek.  I was disappointed.  So was she.

Despite the crazies in our life, we press onward, because really there is not much more to do.  Move forward, walk one foot in front of the other.  Somehow we will find our new "normal".  We will address what needs to be addressed and make sure each little person here in the DAHL house has their needs met. 

I must admit the task feels a bit daunting. Three kids, all special needs now. Who would have predicted that? I feel at I capable of this? Little me...with a 7 special needs students and now 3 special needs kids. But...I trust that God will guide me, give me strength and patience. I know I am a mama to those kiddos for a reason, and a teacher to those students for a reason.
Please pray that WE would find PEACE in all these transitions.

Pray for STRENGTH as Mark and I together parent these little ones.

Pray for HEALING, for all my kids (Luke's eyes, Grace's anxiety, and Bella's physical delays) because I know OUR GOD is ABLE. 

Carissa :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Summer Is....

The summer has seem to have flown by, like it usually does.  We have been incredibly blessed this year to take a few trips and visit with family.  Today is a special day because it is my dad's birthday.  He would have been 61 years old today.  I miss him so much it hurts!  He was a wonderful father and my greatest wish is that he could have met his grand kids.  Stupid cancer!  I hold on to the promise that one day we will all be reunited again!  My parents gave my brother and I many wonderful summers and I strive to pass on that gift to my children.
Summer is trips to the park with dad! Mark spent as much time with us as he could, despite his busy schedule.  He loves being a dad and it shows!  He took the kids to the park several times.  Oh how they love to play with him! 
 Summer is hanging around on the monkey bars!
Summer is relaxing in the grass.
 Summer is a ballet showcase!

 Summer is bowling with Auntie Katie!

Summer is Oak's Park with Uncle D!
 Summer is silly faces, silly kids and BBQ's with 14 other kiddos!

 Summer is splashing in the pool!

Summer is reuniting with family.
 Summer is exploration in matching dresses!

 Summer is for visiting with your sisters!

 Summer is a trip to California!

Summer is the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign!
 Summer is Disneyland!!!

 Summer is brothers and sisters!

 Summer is the new Cars Land!

Summer is for riding roller coasters for the first time!
 Summer is for bonding with Auntie Katie!

 Summer is for picture taking and memory making!

Summer is for 3D glasses and Toy Story Mania!
 Summer is for sister LOVE!

 Summer is for kayaking with your friends!

Summer is for camping with good friends and roasting your first hot dog and smores! 

As summer comes to a close, I am thankful for the experiences, memory making and time spent together.  It is now time to look toward the fall season, schedules and school to make new memories and have new experiences. 

Praying your fall season is full of love and memories,

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Getting Ready for School

I decided to write this post in response to Kate's question regarding "how do you help children with special needs get ready for school?"  I shared previously under "Luke's needs" and shared about some of my difficulties, but decided to share how we actually get the school year going. You can find Kate's blog by looking for the "Lucy" button on the right hand side of my blog.  If you haven't taken time to read about Lucy I encourage you too.  She is an amazing little girl!

So...getting my crew ready for school.  School has always been a "hot topic" for me.  Making the right decision about WHERE the kids go to school has never been easy for me.  A year and a half ago we switched from private to public school, after realizing I needed more help with Luke's needs. 

Luke has various special needs including childhood onset glaucoma, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome and visual, auditory and visual processing disorders.  Miss Grace has difficulties with speech and reading.  And Bella...well on Friday she has an evaluation with Infant/Toddler Early Intervention to see if she has developmental delays.  This has come as a shock to me and I have had a difficult time wrapping my mind around the fact that Bella may need therapy too.  I do know that whatever may come of the evaluation that God will give me the strength to walk the journey. 

The process really begins in the summer when the nurse sends home a letter outlining Luke's medical conditions and asking if anything has changed.  I make sure to fill it out and return it.  I revisit his IEP and make certain that I am happy with the goals and objectives.  I take him to Casey Eye OHSU to have his eyes checked, and to the regular eye doctor to make sure his prescription doesn't need altering.  I have also taken him to his primary for a medication check.  Lots of appointments :)  I order some more compression shirts from Fun and Function.  They help regulate his sensory systems.  I go to Target to find the only size 10 jeans that Luke can button (he needs snaps which is nearly impossible to find).  Fine motor skills are a struggle.  I reorganize his therapies (OT and counseling) so that he doesn't have to miss school, or as little school as possible. 

When school begins, I will make sure to find out what times his services are being given to him, that he is facing the white board straight on (due to his loss of peripheral vision).  I will also make certain that his accommodations and modifications are available to him during the school day and that his "school" glasses are ready for the year. 

For Grace I will make sure to be in communication with the teacher regarding her reading level and make sure her speech is not a concern in the classroom. 

This year I will return to work as a half-time special education preschool teacher.  So a lot of time and planning have already gone into getting ready for the 7 little special needs preschool students I will have under my wings for the next school year.  It is an interesting place to be where you are the mother to special needs kids and a teacher to special needs kids.  I am so blessed with this new job and look forward to the journey that God has set before me.  I am TRUSTING HIM to grant the kids with exceptional teachers, and give me the STRENGTH and ABILITY to be the MOM my kids need to be and the TEACHER my students need me to be. 

Thanks for reading!  Be Blessed!
Carissa Dahl

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Finding Balance

It has taken nearly a week to recover from our vacation to Southern California (Pictures and a post on that to come).  48 hours after returning home, we went camping for 3 days. Yes the word CRAZY comes to mind!  But today...I wanted to touch on a subject that has been on my mind for the last few days.

Finding Balance...I have the tendency to get consumed by something and then throw myself into it.  This is mainly true of my children, especially Luke and his special needs.  I am always on the look out for the next thing, resource, help, intervention, supplement, food, exercise...anything to make his life BETTER.  Lately though I just feel bogged down.  No matter how hard I try.  I.CAN'T.KEEP.UP!  It leaves me feeling like a failure.  Let me explain a little...

The last couple of years with Luke could be somewhat titled as chapters in a book.  Two years ago...the title would have read Getting Diagnosed.  The title this year could read Nutrition and Special Needs.  Looking back.... the "getting diagnosed" part was relatively simple compared to this new "chapter" I have been trying to master.  Most of my research this year (and yes... I am that geek that stays up into the wee hours of the night googling and reading books)  has focused on "the brain gut connection".  When I saw Luke's primary care, whom I really like, last year...I asked about diet and ADHD/Tourettes/Etc.  The response given was that diet does NOT make a difference.  That didn't sit right with me.  I took the information and decided to see what I could come up with.  After all...I have learned that YOU are the one in the driver's seat when it comes to health care (and your children's health care).  It is true that there are not any BIG scientific studies and research that link a specific diet with helping ALL kids with ADHD.  But....I knew of too many people/friends and children where diet DID make a difference with their special needs.  I couldn't just accept a generalized statement as the be all end all of truth.  I am sure by now most all of us have heard of the "gluten-free" diet.  It has been known to make a HUGE difference in children with Autism and ADHD.  So I dug deeper.

Let me my researching of "the brain gut connection" I did NOT go into it looking for a CURE.  I was simply looking for another TOOL to help make life a little better, a little easier for Mr. Luke.  My research turned up case after case of how removing  food dyes, artificial colors, and artificial ingredients were making a difference in the lives of these special children.  I learned how our food know RED 40 (in things like yogurt and juice) and Yellow 5 (in almost every pickle jar) were made from a petroleum know..the stuff we pump into our cars to make them go.  I started thinking how that really can't be HEALTHY for ANYONE!  By law in the UK, they are required to put on food labels that contain any artificial food dye a "warning label".  My eyes began to open...and I began reading labels!  I also bought the Feingold Program for Luke.  I read it.  I started reading about Naturopathic medicine.  Now..this was a BIG jump for me, as I have always been more of a traditionalist.  But...for my kids...I will do just about anything and try anything.  So after two days of seeing if the insurance would cover it...Luke and I went on an adventure to a naturopathic doctor and boy..oh..boy...was it a GREAT experience!  She was amazing!  I LOVED going to a doctor's office in a HOUSE!  Incredible.  She began to put more of the pieces together regarding a low-sugar diet, protein, and supplements.  Also just a great person to ask questions too.  I also spent the 145.00 dollars to have Luke tested for 99 different food allergies.  We go for our follow up this week to find out.  She confirmed what my research had shown me....there IS a "brain gut connection".

So...this brings me to the title of my blog regarding "Finding Balance".  This is where I struggle. The mommy in me wants to give Luke and Grace and Bella everything that would make life better and their health better.  But finances are an issue. Supplements are not cheap...with the supplements the kids are on, with the supplements that the doctor wants me on, plus trying to buy everything organic and does one find balance.  I find myself feeling guilty if I walk into Winco and buy something non-organic.  But...we just don't have the money to go around (with the other therapies, interventions, etc).  I used to get so many good deals couponing, but most of the things for coupons are things we shouldn't be eating.  I miss couponing and saving money, but I want us all to be healthy.  How do I find a balance?How does one afford 150 dollars in supplements a month?  I feel guilty if I spend 80 dollars on one bag of groceries at Whole Foods.  I feel guilty if I shop cheap at Win-Co.   How does one find balance?  How do I make peace with food?  Please leave me a comment if you have advice? Would love to hear any thoughts and insights!
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