Thursday, December 10, 2015

First semester of college is finished!

Today is the last day of my son’s first semester of college.  It has been an educational semester to say the least.  Okay, I will be honest.  It has been a challenge.  

When the semester first started, I wrote some posts about my son’s ADD and college.  I didn’t post what I wrote as I tried to figure out new boundaries for myself and my son; what I can write about and what I can’t.  I have been off the grid for a while trying to figure this out.

However, today is cause for celebration.  S made it through the semester.  It hasn’t been easy. He has worked EXTREMELY hard.  He has studied a lot.  

My son attends college as a student with three identified disabilities:  Cerebral Palsy - Spastic Quadriplegia, Low Vision, and ADD.  He had accommodations in place before the semester started.  His professors have been awesome about working with him so he could be successful. His biggest challenges came from his ADD:  organization skills,  time management, creating and executing a plan, and prioritizing tasks.

I have so many scenarios I could write about showcasing his challenges, but I haven’t.  Today’s scenario kind of wraps it all up.  

For his last final, my son had to write a final essay (500-750 words) to be turned in at 1:30 today. We planned on leaving at 12:30.  He had to write a final analysis of his writing throughout the semester for his English class.  They have had the opportunity to do extra credit related to this final project after each essay.  He has done that.  He was setting himself up for success.  He created a study plan to get himself through finals.  He knew what needed to be done to keep himself on track.  That train derailed early on…..

Last night, he was typing his essay.  We recommended that he finish it last night so he could sleep in today.  I will skip all of the boring details.  Here was what happened.

Today’s schedule:

2:30 AM:  S came upstairs kicking each step on the way which woke me up.  He informed me he wasn’t finished.

7:30 AM:  S woke up to finish writing.

9:00 AM:  Told me he was almost finished

11:00 AM:  Thought he was done.  Not sure on his word count.  Checked it.  He had 305 words.  Better write some a lot more.

11:30 AM:  Had 490 words.  Wrote one more sentence to push it to 504.

12:27 PM:  Printed paper.  Couldn’t find his phone.  Needed a backpack to put his paper in.  Needed a pencil.

1:40 PM:  I received a text from him that his paper was turned in.

At the end of the day (or semester), he finished. He made it through.  Next semester needs to be different.  He knows what areas he really needs to work on to help himself get through school and life a little easier.

I will be on the couch with chocolate and wine.  I think my husband may join me on the couch with a beer. Enjoy your weekend! We will.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Due dates are not optional!

October is ADHD Awareness Month, so I had planned on compiling a series of posts for this month.  My son was diagnosed with ADD 9 years ago and has been on medication since that time.  It was a life changing diagnosis for him.

My husband and I are pretty well versed on ADD.  We have read a lot about it.  We have tried many strategies to help our son in areas that are struggles for him due to his ADD:  time management, organization, prioritization of tasks.  We have purchased apps for his phone.  We have purchased wall calendars to try to help him visualize short and long term deadlines.  We have helped him set up binders.  You name it...we have tried it.

This leads me to my opening statement.  I planned on a series of posts.  I had even started putting ideas together.  Then, my son started college!  Wow!  It has been a time in our house. There are some good times and there are some tough times.

Not only is my son a college student, he is a college student who has Cerebral Palsy, Low Vision, and ADD.  Of these three labels, ADD is the one causing the most challenges in college. Accommodations are in place for his fine motor challenges and for his Low Vision.  All of his accommodations he receives for his CP and Low Vision are also beneficial accommodations for his ADD.  That is good.

The challenge is that accommodations cannot take the place of being organized, turning your work in on time, printing your work to turn in on time, prioritizing your tasks, staying on task, etc. If you have a child who has ADD, you understand this.  

The biggest issue my son is having right now is that all of the challenges are battling to be the forerunner in his life.  It has been a tough time for him which means a tough time for everyone else here.

Because prioritizing his work is a challenge and time management are challenges, due dates are like four letter words to S.  He thinks due dates should be fluid dates and can be moved if that works better for him.  If he’s getting tired or easily distracted, he should just be able to stop his work until it is a better, more convenient time for him.  That worked when he was homeschooled; it doesn’t work in college.  

Due dates are not optional!

He heard this while he was homeschooled also, but he didn’t listen to us (I thought you were exaggerating.)

There have been some many challenges so far this semester.  This week really threw some wrenches into his plans which were very good plans.  But….life happens.  He survived, and we survived.  His white board might be completely erased this weekend. We are all breathing a little easier right now.  

I will be on the couch with chocolate and wine (I’m not going to lie.).

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What are you going to name your child?

“Do you have names picked out?”  This is a question parents-to-be are often asked by family and friends.  When you are adopting a child, you may or may not have the opportunity to name your child.  It depends on the circumstances and age of the child.

We have adopted two children.  Our youngest was our first child, and he has been with us since birth.  Our oldest who was our second child was adopted from Bulgaria, and we were given the opportunity to change his name.

Would you like to give me another name?
J has been with us since birth, and we were able to name him; however, all of the ultrasounds showed that he was a she.  My husband and I had decided on a girl's name.  You can already guess what happened.

As the due date approached, I made my husband play the "What if?" game with me.  This after a co-worker at my school told me that his 5 boys were all supposed to be girls.  My husband was adamant that there was no reason for that since the baby was going to be a girl.  The day before the baby was born I finally got him to engage in a discussion in which we decided on a boy's name "just in case" (insert laughter here).

While we were waiting at the hospital for our child to be born, one of the German nurses asked us for the name so she could get some of the paperwork started.  We told her what our daughter's name was going to be.  

After the baby’s birth, we were able to go into the room where the nurses were going to clean the baby up.  Imagine our surprise when we opened the blanket with our bundle of joy and found that she was a he!  There was a lot of whispering back and forth between me and my husband. One of the nurses asked us if there was a problem.  “No problem.  Just a surprise.”  

The first nurse came back to us a few minutes later and asked, "Would you like to give me a different name?"  In case you were wondering, we did.

Do we change the name of a child who already knows his name?
We had a struggle with whether or not to change S's name.  He was 3 at the time we started the adoption process, and he came home when he was 4.  We knew that he was old enough to know his name.  We decided to keep that one thing as a constant in his life since we were changing everything else that he knew.  We decided that we could use the American name "Seth" as a nickname.

When we went to Bulgaria for our initial visit when S was 3, we heard the nickname the caretakers called him and loved it!  He does not go by the nickname Seth.  We retained his birth name and use the nickname his caregivers used which is just a shortened version of his full name.  He has a Bulgarian name/nickname which is very unique here in the United States.  We call him the "one name wonder".  

I will be on the couch with chocolate enjoying my family and our stories.

Linking up with:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What are you going to do with all of your new free time?

When I was homeschooling S, I was once asked by a family member, “What do you do all day?” The whole exchange was blog worthy.  In fact, it was my first blog post and explains the name of my blog.

Now that S has graduated from high school I am often asked, “What are you going to do with all of your new free time?”  It is a valid question.  At a minimum, it implies I was doing something.  I homeschooled S for 7 years, so it would seem reasonable that I would have free time now that I don’t have that responsibility.  

Along with S graduating and relieving me of my teaching, J received his driver’s license this summer.  All of the hours and miles we have spent driving him to/from gymnastics practice are behind us.  He can now drive himself; however, we drive on Tuesdays to help out a friend whose young son wouldn’t be able to get to practice otherwise.  

What are you going to do?
I have been asked if I am going to get a job.  I have been asked if I am going to go back to school to pursue further education.  I was a teacher in my life before we had kids.  I have been asked if I am going to interpret again.

My answer was and continues to be, “I don’t know.  I will wait to see how everything plays out.”  I have looked at various options and different opportunities for myself.

In April, I wrote a blog post about Transitioning Mom.  I wasn’t too far off in my thoughts at that time.

Here’s the reality of my new free time
S does not drive.  He commutes to campus 4 days/week.  We are out of zone for bus service for him.  You see where this is going….

Four days a week,  I am driving him to/from campus.  His schedule changes day by day depending if he has tutoring or is meeting with his professors or needs time in the library.  One day one of his classes met in a campus building that was far enough from the main campus that I had to go pick S up to take him to that building for a 50 minute class.  Just enough time to run to Starbucks and come back to wait.

Yesterday I logged 124 miles taking S to an appointment, driving to/from campus, taking J to/from practice, and I squeezed back to school night in there.  Did I forget to mention that my husband is traveling for work this week?

my new free time is kind of nonexistent.  It is different.  My responsibilities have shifted.  It is a new season of life.  

I will enjoy where I am at in my life while I am on the couch with chocolate!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Did you ever think....?

“Did you ever think when you brought me home from Bulgaria that one day you would be driving me to college?”

This is the question my son asked me the other morning on our drive to campus. Hmmm…..It is a valid question.  Fourteen years ago S came home from Bulgaria.  At the time, we knew he had Cerebral Palsy.  He has since added the labels ADD and Low Vision to his medical resume.  

What were our expectations of the 4 year old who came into our lives?  Was it college?  I don’t know that college was the expectation; however, we did think of it as a possibility.  It’s hard to gauge what any 4 year old is going to do in 14 years, especially one who speaks a different language than everyone else in the family.

We just knew that we wanted every possible opportunity made available to him, so he would be prepared for whatever path he desired - college, technical education, work, etc.  In order for college to be a possibility, he needed to be pushed academically.

We have been blessed along his educational journey with mostly positive experiences and some negative experiences.  All of them have provided us with learning opportunities.  What works for S and what doesn’t work.  What are his abilities?  What are his strengths?  What are his weaknesses?

Attending college was the option he picked.  Not only is he attending, he is doing well.  He has learned a lot about himself in the 4 weeks he has been attending class.  We are seeing him take ownership of his learning (hallelujah!).  He is self-advocating.  He is meeting with his professors and creating personal relationships with them.  He asks for help when he needs it.

The answer to his question would be, “We just wanted you to do what you wanted to be happy.” 

The better question would probably have been, “Can you believe you are the parents of a college student?”  

I will be on the couch with chocolate trying to figure out how my kids are getting older while I am not.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I thought you were exaggerating.

My son who started college 3 weeks ago is feeling overwhelmed as he creates his “to-do” lists for his classes.  This is what we hear during and after the list making process:

How am I supposed to get all of this done?”
“I have a project and my homework to complete for Statistics!”
“I need to read, take notes, and write an essay.”
“When am I supposed to _____?

My son was homeschooled for 7 years throughout middle and high school.  We knew he planned on going to college.  We prepped him for it.  We made sure he had the classes he would need. We worked REALLY hard to get him to practice and utilize good study habits. 

The challenge my son has in implementing good study habits (setting a schedule, organizing himself, time management, etc) is that he has ADD so these are not traits that come easily to him.  

Every year, every day, we have talked through strategies that might be helpful to him.  We have read information.  We have shared information.  We have asked for input from him to try to figure out how to best help him help himself.  

We have used wall calendars.  We have used Google Calendar and the task list.  We have listed work on a white board in order of priority after talking through the process of prioritizing.  We have talked about reasonable time limits for work.

High School
As S made his way through high school, we continued to stress the importance of having a list, a plan, a schedule, etc. to get his work done in a timely fashion.  This would allow him to have free time which we all need.

As college became a reality, my husband and I told him that the work was going to be more difficult.  It was going to be faster. It was going to be a balance between the classes.  College professors aren’t overly concerned with the fact that you have a project, test, and paper due all the same week or day.

Now that my son is in college and can see all of his work up on his 4 month calendar, the reality of the pace and workload is upon him.  See the above quotes.

Yesterday, as we drove to campus, he was telling me AGAIN that the pace is just crazy.  

How are we supposed to learn that quickly?
You are in college.  This is how it is.  We have been telling you that for years.
I know, but I didn’t think you were telling me the truth.  I thought you were exaggerating to get my attention.
Nope.  Nothing but the facts.

I will be on the couch with chocolate, and I’m not exaggerating about that!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What are the other kids doing?

"What are the other kids doing?"  This question has often been asked by S since he started PreK. He always wanted to do what the other kids were doing whether it was work, play, or activities.  

When he realized that a reduced work load was an accommodation being discussed in an IEP meeting, he was adamant that he was not having that. 
"What are the other kids doing? That is what I will do."

As he became older, he realized that he did do what the other kids were doing. He may have done it differently or it may have taken longer, but he did it.

Last year as we talked about S going to college we discussed the fact that he might have to start with a lighter load. "What? Is that what the other kids do when they start college?"  Some might.

We spent a lot of time talking about the pace of a college class, the work load, and the fact that we wanted him to be successful not frazzled. He did agree to start with 7 credits: Statistics, English Composition, and College Success Skills.

Two weeks into the semester and he understands why we wanted him to start with a lighter load.
1.  He has already decided that there is no way he can take 12 credits next semester.
2.  He has realized that he prefers morning class over afternoon class. He is not a morning person but he has realized the benefit of getting up and starting his day.
3.  He fully gets why he needs to stay on top of his homework, especially statistics.
"All I do is math homework." 
Yep. Welcome to college.
4.  He has also realized that he doesn't want to do what the other kids are doing which is not doing their homework. We keep telling him that all of his hard work now will pay off later (I hope that comes true).  

You will find me on the couch with chocolate and some wine as we help S study Statistics. There will be a celebration at our house when that class is finished!

(I managed to write this entire post on my phone while waiting to pick S up from his class.)

Friday, August 21, 2015

The first week of college

My son started college this week.  This is a BIG deal at our house.  S has worked very hard to get to this point in his life.  He hasn’t done this alone.  We haven’t done this alone.  It has taken a village to get our son here.  In the post, “I have been successful”, my son writes about the help he has received from others.  It has truly been a group effort.

Let me tell you about this week.

The day before college starts

This post talks about all we have done this past year to get to this point.  It has been a lot of work, but we made it to the day before.

The first day of classes

I dropped my son off before his morning class.  His last words to me were, “Pray for me.”  Oh, I have been...a lot.

The second day of classes

Today was just one class, English.  My son had already had contact with the professor.  He said this classroom is smaller than the other classrooms he is in, so there are challenges maneuvering himself to the front of the room.  Other students helped get the table where he needed it.  The helpfulness of others has been a true blessing!

This weekend
This weekend we will be helping S get himself organized.  This is a challenge for him, but he is motivated.  He already has his new digital recorder.  He has purchased new Dragon software for himself (appreciate the student discount).  He needed the Premium version which is supposed to transcribe his recorded lectures.  Can we get a Hallelujah for that?  Technology is a wonderful thing!!

In addition to starting classes, my son also had a dental appointment and a chiropractor appointment.  Fun, fun, fun!

Next week should be a routine week of classes for him.  My friend who has offered to help with transportation has already asked about next week.  I told her we need one full week to really work through the logistics of everything - timing for drop off/pick up, tutoring schedules, additional meetings, and which parking spaces are the best options for S to get himself to class.  We had some issues with Thursday’s parking spaces and the path that a wheelchair is expected to get through and around.  S decided he would rather wheel himself for a longer distance than have the closer route.

This weekend will be spent on the couch with chocolate enjoying my son's successful week!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

School and Adoption Sensitivity

This week's Adoption Link Up topic is "School and Adoption Sensitivity."  This is an interesting topic.

Quick background on my family

We have two children.  J was adopted while we lived in Germany.  He has been with us since birth.  When he was two, he became the younger brother when we adopted S who was 4 from Bulgaria.  

Projects requiring baby pictures

Within months of S coming home, he started school as a PreKindergarten student.  PreK students do a lot of projects including pictures of family.  We had read about this and printed articles for his teacher to read.  She was fabulous and worked with us to make sure the projects didn't exclude S by asking for baby pictures.  She worded things by asking for early pictures or young pictures.  We were very fortunate, and we appreciate her sensitivity in how she handled this.

Because J has been with us since birth, baby pictures were never an issue for school projects.


We had contact with the school prior to S coming home. We wanted them to be aware of this new student they would be getting. The team was amazing! Because S has special needs, the school knew that testing needed to be done.

The following paragraph is from a post I posted in May, Take your test scores and....

"When S started school, we didn’t know for sure how much of an impact his CP and vision issues had on his intellectual development.  We were also dealing with the fact that English was not his first language.  He was adopted from Bulgaria at the age of 4.  Fortunately, we were working with a team that understood all of this.  Just in case they didn’t, I had printed multiple articles off of the internet addressing the issue of testing children who were adopted internationally."

This team was receptive to this information. We were so blessed with them because the next school did not provide us with such positive experiences. 

Family Trees

When the boys had to do family tree projects in primary/elementary school, we gave them ways to incorporate their birth families/culture if they chose.

High School Biology

When J was a freshman, he had Biology in school.  During their unit on Genetics, he came home laughing.  They were discussing eye color and using a Punnett Square.  The teacher was going through the square explaining it.  "If your parents have ____, then you will have ____."  J said he really wanted to raise his hand and explain that both of his parents have blue eyes and he has brown eyes.  

I will be on the couch with chocolate appreciating the fact that our boys' teachers were respectful of our family.

Linking up with:

No Bohns About It

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The first day of classes

I dropped my son off before his morning class.  His last words to me were, “Pray for me.”  Oh, I have been...a lot.  I put that on Facebook, so S had many prayer warriors praying for him.

It was a pretty awesome moment to see him take his first “step” (I should say roll) into this new chapter of his life.

I was allowed to take a picture at home but not at school.  
His first day went well.  He didn't get lost. He ran into a student he attended co-op with a couple of years ago, and this kind young man made sure S got to the right classroom for Statistics.

He said the worst part of the day was just trying to get everything back into his bag.  His pencil fell on the floor.  His audio recorder fell on the floor and the batteries fell out.  When his dad went to show him that the file was still on the recorder, dad deleted the file.  Oops!  (Dad is buying him a new recorder tonight.) Packing his bag up has always been a challenge for him. It will get faster and easier with practice.

He talked to his teachers about his accommodations. He went to the Tutoring Center and is set up to start Statistics tutoring next week. He met up with the Assistive Technology Coordinator in one of the buildings, and this very helpful man made sure everything was set up in the classroom for S.  

He is working on his homework as I am typing this. We are thankful Day 1 was successful. Tomorrow is just English class. Hoping for another successful day!

You will find me on the couch with chocolate celebrating the successes in life!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The day before college starts

Here it is!  We made it.  It is the day before college starts.  It has been a process to get to this point. There have been many appointments scheduled, many trips to the college, many assistive technology decisions made, many logistical things that we have had to think through….but it has arrived.  The day before school….

How did we get here?
It has been a process.  We like to tell our son that these are all learning opportunities for him.  I think he’s tired of all of these opportunities.

The following list of blog posts is kind of a picture of what the process has been like the past year.  We started working toward this transition a long time ago, but some things just can’t be done until the end.

What have we been doing this week?
This week has been a collaborative effort on our family’s part to make sure that S has everything he needs to be successful.

We have been to campus a number of times in the past week making sure S can get himself around campus.  The challenge he has with his Low Vision is that he can’t see the building names across campus.  He needs to know his exact path to follow to get from A to B.  We have visited campus frequently.  He has wheeled himself around.  We have talked out a path.  We have found landmarks for him to identify.  

Oh...another challenge is that it’s not just a matter of getting to the building and entering a door. He has to find the door that has the handicap accessible button or the door with the ramp.  

One more challenge S has is that he has a horrible sense of direction; however, he is very good with maps and creating a picture in his head.  He has studied the campus map.  We created a campus made of Legos, and he has moved the Lego man around campus and talked about the path.


He has his school supplies.  His supply list is somewhat different than other students.  He has Assistive Technology devices and software to help with his Low Vision and fine motor issues due to Cerebral Palsy.  He is using Zoom Text, Dragon Dictation, and the EmPower program through efofex software (free software for students with special needs to help with math and science equations and graphing) along with:

The Transformer which projects an enlarged image onto his laptop screen.  He has just received this, so he needs some practice with it to see how helpful it will really be.


He received a syllabus already from one teacher with her supplies on it.  We have had to try to figure out exactly what he will need from that list as we look at how he will adapt her requirements to fit his needs.  He has emailed her, and she seems quite receptive to what he has suggested.

S also has ADD which presents a challenge when we are talking about college.  Time management and planning are going to be key in his success.  He likes using Google Calendar and the task list.  He has already entered all of his assignments from the syllabus he has received.  (I won’t tell how long it actually took him to do that task.)

S likes looking at a calendar also.  We have a 4 week calendar on our fridge that he frequently stops by to look at and gets sucked into the “Calendar Zone”.  We purchased a 4 month calendar to hang on the wall near his desk.  J has filled it in for him for this semester and color coded everything for S.


At this point, we believe we have everything in place for S to be successful.  I'm sure we are missing something. I am anxious to talk to him tomorrow afternoon to see how his first day went. As he likes to tell us, “You are more excited about this than I am.”  Maybe...just maybe….

I will be on the couch with chocolate looking forward to seeing how this next chapter in my son’s life plays out!