Friday, January 30, 2015

14 Weeks Left - Senior Year

The Senior
S had a busy week and accomplished quite a bit of work.  It had been a challenge for him to focus on his work with his brother having half days of school and days off the previous week.  I thought it would be better since J was back in school for full days. It might have been a more productive week if S had gotten up earlier every day to start his work. When I say get up earlier, I'm not talking about 6:00 or even 7:00. 8:00 would be a nice time for him. That hasn't happened this week. Enough said...

He is more motivated at this point in the week since we told him that when he gets his work done for the week, then he will be able to attend the Super Bowl party with us on Sunday. We are trying to use more positive tones as instructed by the Smart but Scattered Teens book instead of saying, "If you don't ___, then you can't ____." (We have done that A LOT!) 

S told me that wasn't more positive. We asked him what was negative. He couldn't tell us, so we told him it must be positive.

[FYI: S woke up at 5:30 this morning. By 10:00, he finished more work than he has in the past 2 days. His ADD causes him to kick it into hyperfocus when he feels it is crunch time. He felt that today, so he worked super hard. He has a small task to finish after riding, and he is done for the week.]

This week S was assigned two projects - one on Low Vision and one on the book, Fallen Angels.  For his Low Vision project, he will create a Prezi which is a format he doesn't like using that much; that is why he is getting more practice with it.  For the novel, S needed to create a playlist to reflect the theme of the book.  I figured he would like that since he enjoys listening to music.  Because it is something very different than anything he has done before, he thought there was a catch to this assignment.  Nope.  Trying to keep it simple, fun, and out of the ordinary.  It's been interesting to see/hear his music choices because he went down a very different path than I would have taken.  The beauty of this assignment is that it is his interpretation.

He also worked on College Algebra and will take another assessment next week. He also had a writing assignment.  We told him we just need him writing!

He also spent this week editing his daily journal writing from the month of January.  Editing is challenging for him, but he will get it.  That is why he spent the week editing. Practice makes perfect or something like that.

S has horseback riding today.  Tomorrow he is going to the Chiropractor for the first time, and he will volunteer for 2 hours.

The exciting news for the week is that we registered S for the graduation commencement ceremony at the homeschool convention in June!  I have been back in contact with the coordinator about accessibility for S that day.  He decided his wheelchair would be the easiest option for the ceremony.  That day will be here before we know it!  Also, HEAV just announced the commencement speaker.  It will be a good day.

The Sophomore
J had Monday off, so he only had 4 days of school this week.  His new semester started.  It will be a nice change for him.  He is now done with PE and picked up Driver's Ed/Health.  He already has his permit and has been driving for 8 months.  

He went to the chiropractor on Monday.  His hip has been bothering him, and it feels much better now.  He has a fabulous chiropractor who has taken good care of him for a number of years.

J practiced 17.5 hours this week.  

On the Homefront
We made it home from our trip to New York City on Sunday night - right before the big storm and just in time for my husband to turn around and leave for Kansas on Monday.  We had some snow here Monday night but not enough for a delay on Tuesday morning.  J was a little disappointed about that.  Extra sleep is always nice for a teenager (and mom).

I had drop off and pick up duties Monday and Tuesday night for J's practice since my husband was gone.  I spent time hanging out at Starbucks.  I had uninterrupted time to read and write.

I went to the chiropractor on Monday also.  It had been a while since I had gone in for an adjustment.  It was long overdue.  I feel much better and won't wait that long to go again.

We had a great time on our weekend getaway.  Seeing Casting Crowns at Carnegie Hall was AMAZING!!!!  J is our trip photographer when we travel.  He has over 400 pictures from our trip.  I posted a few pictures here. Can I just add how nice it was to have a third driver for our trip?

We were the first ones seated.


What have I written this week?

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Importance of Stretching

My son has received Physical Therapy at least once a week for 17 years (he was exited last January).  Every PT appointment involved stretching during part of the session.  Every PT he has ever worked with has emphasized the importance of stretching at home.  Every Orthopedic Surgeon he has ever seen has emphasized the importance of stretching. Stretching is important to my son's overall well-being.

S has a great deal of tone in his body because of his CP.  Stretching benefits S in so many different ways.  His PT that he worked with here (Virginia) for 8 years would end every session by walking S to the door and, after telling him to be good for his parents, would stress, "Stretching, stretching, and more stretching!"

When S was younger, we would stretch him daily.  As he became older, the above mentioned PT told him he needed to start stretching himself since his parents weren't going to be with him at college.  They would spend sessions discussing stretches and exercises that S could do on his own.  The PT would go through the stretches with him so S would understand how to do it.  

The Reality
Overall, S is horrible about stretching himself.  He says he is going to do it.  He knows it needs to be done, but he doesn't do it.  He might say he is doing it; however, sitting on the floor with one leg bent and the other one straight out for 15 minutes isn't stretching (he never moves from his position). He has a stretching strap; it's just a matter of whether or not he knows where he put it.

[Side Note:  He did do a good job of stretching himself when he was in Minnesota this fall.  He knew he had to go see the Orthopedic Surgeon, and he was afraid that the doctor would tell him he was going to need surgery again.  He had muscle release done on both legs 9 years ago - Achilles, hamstrings, and adductors.  It was a beneficial surgery; he remembers the recovery.]

The Impact
S has done little to no stretching the past 2-3 weeks, and it is impacting his ability to function.  

*We live in a 2 story house that has 14 stairs to the upstairs.  He has always been able to walk up the stairs which is great because he knows he has the mobility to visit houses that have stairs.  Since he hasn't been stretching, he struggles to get up the stairs.  There are some nights he has to "crawl" up the last few steps.  When asked why he is doing that, he will tell us it is because he isn't stretching.

*It impacts his walking and his posture.  He has the ability to walk with a single crutch.  When he isn’t stretching, it is more difficult to walk with a single crutch.

*When S doesn't stretch, it impacts his speech.  It has become more difficult for him to be fluid in his speaking.  His speech has become very choppy and breathy during the past few weeks. Again, he knows it is because he isn't stretching.

*His lack of stretching is apparent when he rides horse.  It is more difficult to get him on the horse.  The staff there will ask him if he's been stretching.

*It makes it more difficult for him to do things for himself.  

What do we do?
It is frustrating to watch him do this to himself, but he is 18.  He knows what needs to be done. We have been preaching this to him since forever! He knows what is happening to his body. He can tell us what is happening.  He can tell us that he needs to stretch.  He has to make it happen.

We (my husband, me, and J) "encourage" him to stretch daily.  One of his favorite excuses is that he doesn't have time.  Really?  If you have time to watch TV, videos, and just sit around and listen to music, then you have time to stretch.  We tell him to stretch while he is doing the things just mentioned, and he doesn't.

Here is a conversation that took place yesterday:
M:  You look like you are in pain.
S:  I’m not in pain.
M:  Can you stand up straight?
[S adjusts himself.]
M:  When was the last time you stretched?
S:  I know I should probably do it today.
M:  I didn’t ask you what you should probably do.  I asked you when was the last time you stretched [and he was unable to answer].

You see what we are up against.  You will find this concerned mom sitting on the couch with chocolate.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Our New York City Experiences

My family had the pleasure of visiting New York City this past weekend.  This was our second trip there.  Our last visit was in July 2010, so it has been a while.  

Our First Visit
We had a nice visit the first time we were there.  Our niece was with us.  We walked a lot, saw some different things, ate some great food, and our niece was able to meet up with a high school classmate.  The thing that sticks out in our mind from that trip was our surprise at how many subway stations were not handicap accessible. When we were done visiting with our niece's friend on that trip, she pointed out the nearest subway stop to us.  She was astonished when we told her we couldn't go there because there was no elevator.  She quickly became aware of the challenges we had on our trip.

Preparation for This Trip
This time we knew that subway transportation would be a challenge.  We did more research at home to familiarize ourselves with the needed accessible stops near things we wanted to do. We were also there for a specific purpose -  to attend the Casting Crowns concert at Carnegie Hall.  Anything we did above and beyond that was a bonus to our trip.

Our Visit
Because we drove from our home to the area, we stayed in Jersey City which is easier to get to by car.  We have stayed at the Doubletree Hotel both trips.  It's close to the PATH which is accessible (lucked out the first time because we didn't know to check for that).  The hotel staff was wonderful about giving us information, maps, suggestions, etc.  One desk clerk clued us into which will give subway directions and has a filter for accessible routes. Thank you!

We made it around the city just fine.  We did a lot of walking (over 17 miles in 2 days) because sometimes it was just easier.  Also, we had the opportunity to see some really cool things.  J took over 400 pictures on the 2 days we spent in the city.  

We visited Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, the 9-11 Memorial, Times Square, Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center, ate at Junior's (didn't feel guilty about the delicious piece of devil food's cheesecake since I walked so many miles), consumed some Jamba Juice, had cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery, some goodies from Carlo's Bakery, and attended a concert at Carnegie Hall which we were able to admire and enjoy by ourselves for a while since we were seated early.  

Lasting Impressions
People of New York:  You have outdone yourself on your helpfulness and politeness to this visiting family!  Kudos to you!  We were all amazed at how helpful everyone was to us.

*We rode on a water taxi, and the workers were very helpful to ensure that S made it on safely.
*Statue Cruises:  The staff was amazing!  They were incredibly helpful in clearing paths for S to safely get on and off the ferry and helping lift his wheelchair when necessary.
*People who were willing to answer questions and offer help and assistance wherever we were.
*When S's front caster became lodged in a raise in the sidewalk, multiple people came forward to help my husband.  
*Security guards helped with doors at various buildings.
*On our return trip to Jersey City, the elevator was out at the Hoboken PATH station.  A worker came by to confirm with us which stop we needed since we would have had problems there.
*Any time we were on public transportation, the other passengers helped make room for S's wheelchair, offered up seats to our family, helped clear paths if we needed to get off, etc.

A Few Memories of Our Trip

A photograph of our trip photographer

View from our room

We will have fun looking at pictures from our trip and reminiscing.  However, there will always be an overriding memory of this trip that will stick in our minds - the people and their willingness to help.  Thank you!

I will be on the couch with chocolate and my memories of the goodness in people.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

School, Midterms, NYC

The Senior
S has been continuing to work on his schoolwork. He found out he received an “A” on his Human Eye Lesson 4 which he was happy about.  He worked hard and finished up Lesson 5 this week.  That course is complete!  He is going to work on a Low Vision research project to complement the course and help him in his understanding of how Low Vision impacts his life.  

Although S focused on his Human Eye course, he also worked on Daily Journaling, College Algebra, and History.  His workload was lighter this week since we left on Thursday for a little trip.

We are still going through his research paper word by word to help prepare him for the next paper, topic unknown at this point.  He will start it the end of February.  

There has been some frustration this week since S has not been getting up in the morning which means he is working later in the evening.  That wouldn’t be an issue except he thinks it should be very quiet in the house when he’s working.  The problem is that other people live in this house.  As we told him, “We are going to talk and not tiptoe around since you didn’t want to get up and get started on your work.”  

S had Youth Group on Wednesday night.  There isn’t horseback riding for him this week because we are out of town.  

It’s hard to believe that there are only 15 weeks left of school for him.  As I look at the plans I laid out for the year, I am still tweaking some of them.  Love the freedom to do that!  He will still finish the things we had laid out, but we are going to do some fun projects for some of his assignments.  Looking forward to that.  It will be a nice change of pace for him since he has been working so hard all these years to make it to this point.

The Sophomore
J made it through exams!  There was no school on Monday.  He had Chemistry and Spanish exams on Tuesday, PE and Photography exams on Wednesday, and Math Analysis and English exams on Thursday.  Because it was exam week, the high school students had half days which meant they were dismissed at 10:40 (That just tells you they start really early.  One more reason S is glad to be homeschooled.)  J is now ready to start his second semester next week.  

J had practice for 10.5 hours this week since he missed Thursday and tonight.  

On the Homefront
At the time of this posting, we are in New York City for a weekend getaway and a concert at Carnegie Hall.  Looking forward to that!

This past weekend included a VBS planning meeting,  S volunteering, church and Sunday School, and attending a college gymnastics meet (It’s a lot less stressful when my son isn’t competing.)

On Monday, my husband had the day off.  The first thing on our schedule was a couples massage.  That’s a good day!

Otherwise, it’s been fairly routine - school, work, gymnastics.  

What have I written this week?

Enjoy your weekend!  I will enjoy my time in New York City.  We have a suite, so I can be on the couch with chocolate (and some goodies from some yummy bakeries).

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Benefits of Therapeutic Horseback Riding

S has been riding weekly at a therapeutic horseback riding facility since he was in the 7th grade. This is his sixth year of riding.  It has been a wonderful activity for him to participate in. He benefits in so many ways related to PT, OT, and Speech.

Physical Benefits
*It is building his core muscle strength.
*It stretches his legs. It also is motivation to stretch at home since it is apparent to him and those helping him if he hasn't been stretching. It is harder for him to get on the horse.
*His posture improves while he is riding.
*He has control of a horse.
*He has the ability to get the horse to do things even when his own body doesn't do what he asks of it.
*The horses have a calming effect on him.

Speech Benefits
*He has to articulate concerns if something isn't right (equipment, position on the saddle).
*He has to be able to give instructions to staff if someone is subbing for his regular instructor/horse lead/side walker (explaining how to assist him while mounting or dismounting).
*He has to communicate his equipment needs (what kind of stirrups he uses, which reins he prefers, etc) if someone new is working with him and requires clarification on what he needs.

One year he took Speech Therapy at this facility, so they did his speech lessons while riding. His Speech Therapist was wonderful and really wanted to help him in all aspects. His PT from a private clinic came out to observe and give helpful suggestions. The PT also realized that S was capable of doing more than he had shown in the clinic; the PT was also able to start working on exercises in the clinic that would be beneficial during riding. S worked hard on those exercises because he knew it would help with riding.

Additional Benefits
*His confidence increases while he is on the horse.
*He has the ability to follow multi step directions while controlling a horse.  [This is the same child who looks at me funny when asked to do more than one thing at home, and he isn't on a horse.]
*He needs to be aware of cues the horse sends him and read the horse's body language.
*He needs to be flexible if he needs to ride another horse or work with other people. He has been known to ask instructors about their qualifications.  Just saying...

In addition to the above benefits, we have had the opportunity to meet some amazing families here.  Among the parents, we are able to ask each other questions, provide resources, and give an encouraging word when needed.  The students are able to support and encourage each other also.

S is in a very supportive environment.  The staff at this facility is wonderful!  All of the instructors are good, and S has worked with a number of them.  That being said, he has a favorite instructor; he is with her this session.  He has has favorite instructor, a side walker who has been with him for quite a while, and a horse lead who has worked with him for a while.  All is well in his world!

With all of these things to be thankful for, I will be enjoying myself on the couch with chocolate.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Brielle and Me: A Review

I read the book, Brielle and Me, last week.  As I was reading it, I would share little snippets of the story to my family members as if Kerith, Brielle, and family were friends of our family, and I had just received some interesting piece of information about them.  When you start talking about another family like that, it means the story touches you.

As a mother of a child young adult who has special needs, I can relate to most of what Kerith wrote about.  I say most of what she wrote about because S was adopted at the age of 4 and we knew he had Cerebral Palsy when we adopted him.  We didn’t have to go through the worry during pregnancy or waiting on initial testing that is addressed in the beginning of the book. We had time to research CP and talk to professionals prior to him coming home.  We were able to set up initial doctor’s appointments before he came home.  We knew how to work with the school system since I was a Special Education teacher.  That being said…..

Kerith did a great job of writing about their journey.  It brought back so many memories and emotions of our journey, good and bad.  As special needs families, our journeys are all unique; however, we all understand. Our stories are our stories, but we have all been there. As I said last week, Kerith "gets" my life.

Kerith and her family were extremely honest in this book about their journey.  I appreciated that.  

For me, especially, it was nice to read a story about a family who made it through childhood and is now handling special needs adulthood.  We are there now too.

Since we made it this far, you will find me on the couch with chocolate enjoying life.

Friday, January 16, 2015

16 Weeks Left, Gymnastics, and Midterms

The Senior
S made it through another week!  He is motivated to get his work finished, but there were a few days this week that he thought he should sleep in; however, he has been working hard to get his assignments done.  It has been really nice to see him working so hard without "encouraging" words from mom and dad.  

This week he has worked on College Algebra and finished another assessment, done Daily Journaling, continued the in-depth review/edit of his research paper (a lot of progress has been made on improving it), written an essay, finished and submitted the Human Eye Lesson 4 (only one lesson left in the course), worked on History and watched some related DVDs from The Great Courses, and worked on German IV.

Hard at work.

He has horseback riding today.  We have had some chilly, icy weather, so we are hoping it isn’t too cold when he is riding.

He will volunteer 4 hours this weekend.  It's been more difficult to schedule hours this month because of our schedule.  He should get more hours in next month.

S has heard his brother talking about his exam schedule at school for midterms, and he is thankful that he is homeschooled.

I saw that graduation registration will open up on January 26 for the commencement ceremony at the homeschool convention. It will be here before we know it!

The Sophomore
J has had a crazy week!  It is exam time at school.  This week he took his SOL for World History on Monday.  Today he is taking his midterm exam in the same class, and he also has a project due in that class.  He has been busy reviewing for the rest of his midterms next week. His schedule next week is Monday off; exams and early dismissal on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; and then he has Friday and the following Monday off.  

J had a meet last weekend, so Saturday was a LONG day for us.  He did well.  He placed on pommel horse, rings, vault, high bar, and all around.  He improved scores on 3 individual events and his all around score.  He knows what skills he needs to improve.  Overall, he was pleased and he had fun.  That's what we want for him.




He had practice for 14 hours this week (stayed home last night because he was sick).  That, along with studying, has kept him busy.  He has a "relaxed" weekend (studying for exams) ahead of him.

On the Homefront
It has been a busy week.  We started off with J's meet which was fun, but we were tired Sunday morning with only 5.5 hours of sleep before church (we stayed awake during the sermon).  

My husband headed up to Washington DC on Monday night for a Tuesday meeting.  Those trips make for some long days for him. Because he was gone Monday evening, I had drop-off and pick up for J's practice. His practice is 45 minutes from our house. Because his practices are 3.5 hours long, my husband and I go back and forth so we can spend some time together. Since he wasn't home, I stayed up there and hung out at Starbucks the whole time. Why not? I was able to get a lot of reading and writing done.

My favorite:  Trenta Cool Lime Refresher

My husband had 3 PT appointments this week.  His PT evaluation was yesterday, and his PT was pleased with his progress.  He goes back in 4 weeks.

I have kept busy keeping track of everyone and their schedules for this week.  I am also getting ready for our trip to New York City that our family is going on next week after J finishes exams.  We are looking forward to that.  We are going to see Casting Crowns at Carnegie Hall. So excited about that!

My husband and I had a date night last Friday night while J was at practice.  We were able to read some more in the book, Smart but Scattered Teens:  The “Executive Skills” Program for Helping Teens Reach Their Potential.  S has been hearing some good advice from the book. He keeps telling us he is the only model, and he can't be improved.  We told him we want the model to work more efficiently.

What have I written this week?

I was able to start reading Brielle and Me this week.  I just finished this morning! I enjoyed Kerith’s honesty about her life.  It was very nice reading about someone who “gets” my life. If you haven't read this book, I strongly encourage you to do so. I will write more about it later when I have time.

You know where I will be this weekend - on the couch with chocolate!  Have a good weekend!

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