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Sunday, January 27, 2013


"The most consistent predictor of a child's success is the active involvement of his parents." ~Christine Yoshinaga-Hana

My kitchen is in shambles, the floor need a good sweeping, laundry folded and put away, lunches packed...but here I am typing because I need to PROCESS.  It has been another whirlwind weekend.  But like always... I am trying desperately to keep up, or just keep my head above water.  I am trying to PROCESS what schooling options for next year are available for my kids, specifically Luke. 

In response to the school districts latest IEP for Luke, Mark and I have decided that instead of "fighting" the system, we believe that there must be a better schooling option for Luke, and Grace for that matter. We feel like we have been fighting the school system for several years, and it really isn't worth the effort.  We.are.done. 

My whole way of thinking is challenged.  I had faith in a system, in a process that I believed would help my baby boy.  The system that would "get him the help and services that he needs", or so I was promised by special education staff in late 2010.  I don't know if I was so exhausted from a new baby and all these new symptoms and NO explanation (2011 was my year of discovering all of Luke's new medical issues) BUT I believed the special education staff at BBC.  AND the part that made me feel secure was the fact I was trained as a special education teacher.  I figured they would want to make the "special education teacher parent" happy and Luke would be "taken care of".  This has not been the 

My sweet little Grace falls into another great place in public education. Do you hear my sarcasm??? She is low enough in subject areas to be behind, but not low ENOUGH for them to do anything about it.  As an educator this is the most dangerous place for a student to be in, and it is the easiest for teachers to overlook and not "address."  I feel as though I have been fighting for anyone to pay attention to her and her needs since she was two. enough pity party.  Mark always tells me 10% on the problem and 90% on the solution. we go.  As I see it...I have 3 options for schooling Luke and Grace.  First private school, second homeschooling with community programs/classes and third transferring to a different school with the school district.  Here is where I am at with the different options:

PRIVATE SCHOOL...I have currently toured 3 different private schools. I just want to say these are all great schools with great programs.  However, when looking at these schools, curriculum and academic programs, I am parent looking for something DIFFERENT than most of their families that attend these schools. And that is ok.  Luke really does not "fit" the typical student mold at all.  My main questions are about accommodations, how the school handles bullying, curriculum used, modified homework assignments, their policy for a student missing some school due to medical and therapeutic appointments.  The first school I looked at is very academic and I feel wouldn't be the best fit for Luke or Grace.  I think it is excellent to push kids and achieve great academic success, but that is just not where my kids are. 

Another school told me that I would NOT be ALLOWED to register Luke at their school until I provide a copy of his IEP and have their support teacher review it.  After the review, they would let me know if Luke was ACCEPTED or REJECTED.  This left a bitter taste in my mouth.  They call themselves a Christian school yet only allow in CERTAIN students.  I do understand it...well sort of.  Some accommodations may be too difficult for teachers to make. is Luke...a child that would benefit from a Christian environment yet he has to be deemed "ACCEPTED" to their standard.  Doesn't seem quite right.  Here I am pleading with them, begging them to let me pay 5,000 plus dollars a year for him to be in their school and "they will get back to me in a couple of weeks."  The tears rolled down my cheeks ALL THE WAY HOME.  I was praying "God, why does this have to be so difficult and painful.  You created Luke, you gave Luke to us.  I am trying my best to raise him according to Proverbs 22.  Train up a child in the way they should go...Lord, the Christian school doesn't even seem like they want OUR Luke."  Sadness followed by anger followed by grief followed by clearing my head because the next day I had ANOTHER school to look at.  There was no issue with this school accepting Grace.  I could register her if I wanted.

The third school was opposite in almost every way to the previous school.  It felt homey and welcoming.  As the tour proceeded I began to open up about Luke and Grace and our life.  While I was talking with the gal giving the tour, I noticed a boy (about Luke's age) working with a one-on-one in a large room.  From my background I could tell he had special needs.  I thought this was VERY interesting.  I LOVED that they were including kids with special needs.  I saw the small class sizes, the kiddos interacting with the teachers and extra parent help. They run background checks on all the parents so they can all help.  I talked with her extensively about Luke.  It was a breath of fresh air to hear that they would accept Luke without needing to see his IEP.  They believe in individualized instruction for all their students and that students grow and learn at their own rate.    YES...YES I thought to myself.  When I got home I began reading the school handbook.  I will have to be doing some emailing tomorrow to clarify a few things.  Not certain how flexible they will be on their rules.

This week I will be looking at the homeschooling community/classes in the area.  More specifically Evergreen Flex Academy and River HomeLink.  This will give me an idea of programs available should we decide to go down that route.  My main concern regarding homeschooling Luke or Grace is the fact that I would need a break somewhere in the week.  I LOVE them so much, but being a good mom means I have to meet my needs too.  Whether it was visiting Grandma or fun classes or sports etc. there would have to be a built in break for me each week.  Just being honest. Also, if we chose to homeschool one child we would send the other to private school because we have learned we HAVE to keep the peace.

The final option would be to transfer the kids to another school within the school district.  I would have to apply for a boundary exception and wait to see if we were approved.  Maybe a new school with a new special education staff would be more invested in Luke.

My final thought in this whole school debate is preschool.  I thought for sure I wanted Bella to go to preschool but now I am not so sure.  There is no written rule that says she has to go to preschool at 3 years old.  Just not sure of anything anymore.  :(

Anyway...the reason for all this school talk believe it or not is that registration for all these schools (private and preschool) begin in Feb.  CRAZY!  If you want your kids to have a spot you have to register SOON. 

Praying for direction and having faith in the journey,
Carissa :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Day In The Life Of....

Today is Wednesday.  It is possibly the most difficult day of the week for me.  Wednesday is a LONG day.  My largest group of students come to class on Wednesday.  Our special education staff weekly team meeting is after class, so I remain late at work.  Luke and Grace get home early because of early release, then therapy, then the nightly routine (homework, dinner, bath, bed time).  Mark works on Wednesdays so I am solo.

My class begins at 8:30am, but my day began much earlier than that.  The clock read 5:47am when I heard the cries of an almost three year old.  I can barely manage to write that she is almost three years old.  I am living in denial!  Except for a slight creak in the floor boards, the house is silent as I tip toe into the the girls soft pink and blue room.  My almost three year old baby is standing up in her crib, hair tousled about, her fluffy pink blanket in hand, sucking on her pink binky (yep she still has her binky, cause I am a good mom like that). 

"I need you," she whines to me in the dark.  "I need you too", I whisper back.  I plop her into bed with Mark and I, situating her right in the middle, hoping I can rest my eyes for another 30 minutes.  She instantly rolls over resting her head next to mine and patting me on the arm.  Her little cartoon character voice exclaims, "I need apple juice, now!"  My groggy voice corrects her, "I need apple juice PLEASE," I say with an emphasis on the PLEASE.  Mark is snoring unaware of my early wake-up call.  I try and rest as I watch the minutes tick by on our digital clock all the while being kicked and pushed by an alert toddler.  I am up by 6:15am getting ready for another day at work.  By 6:30am, Luke has made his way out of bed and attempts to startle me like he does every morning while I am putting on my make-up.  7:00am rolls around, and I wake-up Mark and our sleeping princess Grace, who mumbles something and rolls over with the covers over her head.  I hand out clothes, pack Luke's snack and quickly fix the girls hair and say my goodbyes.

By 7:30am, I am in the van driving to work.  I commute 30 minutes each way to work.  I don't mind the drive though.  It is quiet.  The road is mostly freeway and there is NEVER any traffic. 

I enjoy the hour solitude 4 days per week, and I have recently discovered books on CD at the library.  I remember as a young elementary school girl enjoying when the teachers would read aloud from a chapter book in class.  I would always feel a twinge of disappointment when they would put the book down.  The books on CD are much the same way.  I think I could listen until the entire story was complete, but the day must go on.  Right now I am listening to The Help.  It is 15 CD's long.
When I arrive in my classroom at 8:00am, I know the half hour prep I have will be over quickly.  I begin by taking down the chairs, setting out entrance activities, turning on classical music.  I head to the office, which is a walk through the buildings (my classroom is in a portable) to check my box and say good morning to the office staff.  There is the usual chatter from teachers in the staff lounge and smell of warm coffee.  As always I check the counter area that is designated for free things teachers are giving away.  Nothing of interest today.  I have acquired a few posters and couple of books.  The principal is in the office this morning and I say a quick hello.  When I return to the classroom, I open the sensory table, scan the classroom to make sure I am satisfied and conclude by putting the baby gate up at my desk.  Ahhh!  The world of special needs preschoolers.  They have curious minds and most of them want to play on my computer.  The gate does a great job of keeping little hands from reprogramming. 

Our day is filled with the same schedule we repeat over and over.  I always feel blessed when we are able to go outside.  Even though it was cold today, I promptly had their coats on for our 10:00 date with the playground.  I enjoy watching them run, swing and play.
Later that morning the students work at the table.  Today our skill practice was cutting and gluing.  I was feeling particularly brave today allowing them to use the white glue and not the glue sticks (less mess).  I have learned that sometimes the mess is good.  The learning is really in the process and not the product.   There were many puddles of glue in our process today. 

There is ALWAYS a mess of toys EVERYDAY in the classroom!  This picture shows the mess 9 kiddos can make.  Gina, my instructional assistant and I pick up this mess Tuesday through Thursday.  We should earn an award!  We laugh a lot.  You have to, or you wouldn't make it through the day.  Gina says, "We need a new piece of tape for the light switch." To that statement I reply, "OK, I will get a fresh piece."  We both laugh at that exchange of conversation.  Who says things like that in their job?  Well I guess we do!

I can't conclude my day at work without mentioning how tough the work is, but how rewarding it is also.  Just looking at this little one reminds me how far we have come, and how much farther we have to go.  

After class is over, we hurry to pick everything up.  Gina blazes through clean up, while I am a bit slower.  My mind now turns to our team meeting we are about to have.  Usually it is held in the conference room, but not today.  It is being held in my classroom.  The team begins to arrive (school psychologist, occupational therapist, other special education teachers) and I once again apologize for the smallness of the chairs (preschool).  The meeting ends at 1:15 and I quickly email a parent.  It is 1:25 and I am finally headed home.    

Luke and Grace are already home by the time I walk through the door.  Wednesday is their school's early release day.  I quickly switch gears from teacher back to mom.  I survey the house, kids and Mark.  I make mental notes.  Grace still has that nasty cough. I don't think she is going to school tomorrow.  Bella needs a bath, dishes need to be done.  Thoughts run through my head: there isn't enough time in the day, why can't I be more on top of things. I am tired and I still have half the day to go.  At 3:30pm we head out to the van.  I drive to downtown Vancouver and escort Luke to therapy.  Family Solutions is the name of the counseling center.  I park the van happy that I remembered to bring parking money for the meter.  Luke and Grace fight about who gets to feed the meter.  They each get a coin.  We walk to the building and take the elevator to floor 2.  Mr. M greets us and I explain that with Grace's cough we are going to wait in the van and not the waiting area.  

  There is a cute organic tea shop next door and the girls and I pop in for something warm to drink.  Grace chooses a hot chocolate.  I scan over all the tea choices wishing I had the luxury to really read about them all.  I quickly pick "orange blossom" because I don't want Bella to get into everything.  Bella finds a juice and they each pick out a cookie.  I order a cookie for Luke too because he would insist "it wasn't fair" if he didn't get one.   

At five to five we pick up Luke and walk back to the van.  I buckle up Bella in her car seat, walk around to the driver's seat, turn the car on and blast the heat.  I take a different way home to go past the library.  I have a couple of books to return.  We finally pull into the driveway at 5:30pm.  I walk into the kitchen and begin preparing dinner.  The kids start their homework. It is loud in the kitchen.  Kids are arguing over something, Bella is whining for juice or fruit snacks or a banana.  She will just keep asking till I give her something.   
   Dinner is over and the homework is done.  The kids put there pj's on after the sixth time I ask them.  I pour two medicine cups of children's cough and cold medicine.  Bella throws herself on the floor because she didn't get any.  Luke gets out his eye drops and they both pick a snack.  They are finally in their beds.  Prayers are said, hugs and kisses given and their eye lids are heavy.  So are mine.  In just a few short hours this crazy will all start all over again.  And you know what? I am exhausted.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Luke had an eye appointment this past week.  We have been through so many of these appointments I have since "let go" of the worry that occupied my mind preceding each Casey Eye appointment.  Previously I spent a year gripped with worry and fear over "what exactly is wrong with Luke's eyes."  I wanted an answer, a definite diagnosis, and a three step plan on we were going to fix it.  None of my wishes ever came to be.  The only answer given was Luke has "childhood onset glaucoma".  There was no explanation of why he was losing his sight so rapidly. Test after test would come back with no explanation.  Meanwhile, I would become more anxious and fearful. I was "willing" there to be an answer, anything concrete that I could hold on to, google and fix. No answer would come.  In the last 18 months, I have learned to exist with an unknown. 

This past week he had ANOTHER series of tests.  Eye pressures, digital photography, dilation of eyes, visual fields...the whole gamut.  The doctor was so pleased with the results of all said tests and claimed Luke's successful appointment a "late Christmas present" in her Australian accent.  In the last 18 months, Luke has NOT lost any more vision!!!  His eyes remain STABLE!  Victory for this mama.  An everyday MIRACLE nonetheless.  Luke is a RARE case and therefore despite the INCREDIBLE news, will continue to be followed VERY closely.  More eye drops, more appointments, more eye pressures, more of the same course we are on.  But I walk on, with this victory under my belt, a smile on my face and the realization that I am holding hands with a MIRACLE!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


 Dear Mr. Dahl,
It is difficult for me to believe that we were this young when we got engaged ( just barely 19)!  We were practially babies!  I thought I loved you the most a person could love someone then.  Ahh but now...that love, that young love we had, has grown into a deeper love.  A love that only time, triumphs, and trial can grow.
 And oh how we have had our share of experiences, life adventures, triumphs and tragedies.  Life has not left us untouched.
 14 years ago this was us...saying "I do" and uniting together, to take on the to speak.  Oh the places we have been and the places I am sure we will go.
 How I wish our 14th was celebrated here....
 but more than Disney...celebrated here....together...
Someday our time for celebrating anniversaries sans children will come, but not today...not our 14th.  It was marked by work, therapy, dinner, baths and Wii Just Dance performed by 3 children (which remains to be the funniest thing I have seen in a LONG time).  14 was celebrated by delighting in caring for the 3 little people that we were incredibly and undeserving of.  Happy 14th Anniversary Mr. Dahl!

I love you more today than 14 years ago!
Simply stated you are my everything.
God math...1+1=1 
Celebrating 14 years of markissa.
Love you,
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