Friday, February 27, 2015

Gymnastics, College Visit, More Snow

It has been ANOTHER snowy week here in Virginia.  J had three snow days, and my husband had two snow days.  Enough already!

The Senior
S survived his weekend trip to northern Virginia for his brother’s gymnastics meet.  After it snowed 5-6 inches prior to the meet, he opted to just hang out at the hotel and watch movies. Since the meet took quite a while, we decided he made a good choice on staying at the hotel.

On our way home, we stopped at the University of Mary Washington for a self-guided tour.  S’s former Occupational Therapist had suggested this school to him.  Since it was finally nice outside, we thought we would walk around campus to see if S would like to go back for a guided tour.  He liked the campus and wants to go back for a guided tour!  This is definitely progress for him.  

When we arrived home on Sunday, S decided he would get a jump start on his school work. He worked on his College Algebra.  He knows he is getting close to being done with the course, so he is very motivated to work on this subject.

This week he worked on College Algebra, daily journal writing, finished his notes for his research paper, German IV, and History.  We started reading another novel, Without You, There is No Us.  

I realized this week that S is having an easier time taking notes for his research paper.  I have determined it is one of three things.
  1. He is better at taking notes.
  2. He is following his outline more as he takes notes.  This outline is a little more basic than his last one.  (The topic is a little simpler than the last topic.)
  3. I am making this observation while he is using print sources rather than online sources. [Since he can’t copy and paste, he is forced to paraphrase his notes.] Therefore, the question I have asked is, “Does he do better with print sources for note taking than online sources?”  If so, he is going to have to print out text from online sources to take notes.  

S had a dentist appointment on Wednesday and had a little bit of work done.  He is getting some great lessons on growing up since he saw how much the bill was with dental insurance.
S received a phone call from DBVI this week about Vocational Rehab services. They were on our list of people to call. That was good.  He and his dad are going to meet with the counselor on Monday afternoon. Hopefully, they will get some good information. He also started filling out the application for SSI. He received a letter from the community college outlining the next steps he has to take.

We attended the Lenten service on Wednesday night after S had Youth Group.  He was supposed to have horseback riding today, but it was cancelled because of weather.  He received his schedule for next session.  He kept Fridays, but his lesson will be at 10:00.  That means we have to leave at 9:00.  It’s been a different time each session.

S will be volunteering 4 hours on Saturday. He is hoping it warms up because the Casemate becomes quite chilly inside.  

The Sophomore
J was quite happy to get back to school this week although the week started with a 2 hour delay.  He told us, “I don’t mind the 2 hour delay, but I don’t want another snow day.”  I understand!  Unfortunately, he only had school two days this week.  Tack three more snow days onto the four from last week...That's right. A federal holiday, 7 snow days, and a two hour delay in the past two weeks of school.

J had an interesting meet on Saturday evening.  He had some personal bests and a personal low.  He had a “vaultastrophe” (my new made up word); however, he wasn’t hurt and is okay. We will take the new low score and be thankful for his safety.  He took first in rings and high bar, tied for second on floor but took third, took second on parallel bars, and third on pommel. His low vault score messed up his All Around score.  Again, we are just thankful he wasn’t hurt.

I’m going to blame my husband for a lack of pictures.  He is our official photographer/videographer at the meets.  He takes pictures during warm up and tapes the actual event.  We must have been too busy talking during warm ups. [My husband told me the lighting wasn’t good in the gym which is why he doesn’t have pictures.]


J had practice for 14 hours this week.  Practice was cancelled Thursday because of the weather. We were very happy that he could get back into the gym on Friday. He gets a little stir crazy when there isn't school or practice.

On the Homefront
We spent last weekend traveling and sitting at the meet.  J checked in at 4:15, and we made it back to the hotel at 11:00.  

The day of the meet it snowed quite a bit, so traveling to the venue was slow.   This is a picture from our hotel room.  The parking lot had already been cleaned once.


This was supposed to be a fairly boring week which would have been okay.  My husband was supposed to have a church meeting Tuesday night so I had drop off and pick up duty.  I just stayed in the area and hung out at Starbucks.  Gave me time to read and write.  I ended up doing that; however, the church meeting was cancelled because of weather (our weather people missed this one).  J and I drove in some bad weather.  It was worse the closer we came to our house.

Since we had more snow days, it was still a boring week but a different kind of boring.  We hung out and relaxed.  We shoveled A LOT of snow, and our snow shovel was shared with the neighbors again. We tackled a few unfinished tasks around the house.  

The other day I purchased some more items for S’s graduation party.  Decoration purchases are almost done.  There are some projects we need to continue to work on since we had the opportunity to start some this week, and we will order food as the date gets closer.  Let the fun begin!

What did I write this week?

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Using the Wii for Therapy

One effective therapy tool that my son has willingly used at home is the Wii. Teenage boys and video games, what's not to love?

When S was still receiving PT services, his Physical Therapist was trying to find ways to motivate S to stretch and practice "tall knees" (standing on his knees) which helps with his balance and core.  Tall knees was difficult for S, and it wasn't much fun; therefore, why bother?

His PT found out that S enjoyed Wii boxing; however, S would sit on the floor while doing it. His PT suggested to him that he box while practicing "tall knees".  

Success!  S is very self-motivated to do this activity, and that's a very good thing. I love it when therapy can be fun for my son!  

I will be on the couch with chocolate hoping he doesn't come and fling his sweat on me after he is done boxing.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How do you keep him motivated?

My youngest son, J, is a gymnast.  He is in his seventh year of competing this year. We have learned through the years that boys' gymnastics is a small, supportive community, and we have had the opportunity to meet many families from various gyms and states during this time.  

At J's meet this past weekend, I had a mother from another gym approach me.  Her first question was, "Was that your son who just competed on rings?"  I guess my obnoxious hooting and hollering after my son finished his routine gave me away.  [I do need to clarify that he stood his landing up which has been a challenge for him this year since he has a more difficult dismount.] Anyway...I told her that was my son.  She complimented his routine (told you - very supportive). Her next question was,

How do you keep him motivated?
I didn't even hesitate when I answered.  I don't.  My husband doesn't.  Everything my son does in the gym and at meets comes from him.  We encourage him, and we support him; however, he has to motivate himself.  She said that her son is losing motivation, and they are trying to figure out how to motivate him.

That's tricky.  I can't make my son work in practice or do his best at meets.  He has to want that. He has to work hard.  We have told him when it is no longer fun, then it is time to quit. Our family has invested too much time in J being a gymnast for him to continue when it isn't fun - he practices at a gym 45 minutes away 5 nights/week.

This conversation made me think about S and motivating him to do the right things for himself - stretching, becoming independent, etc.  

What are the parallels?
The special needs community is a small, supportive community.  We have had the opportunity to meet some amazing families throughout our various duty stations, travels, and activities.  

No other parent will get what you are going through like that of another parent of a special needs child.  They will celebrate that milestone achievement that to others seems miniscule. They will empathize with you when you talk about battles with the insurance company or schools.  They will understand your desire to find that "something" that will help your child.

What are the differences?
With J, we tell him when it isn't fun then it is time to quit.  We can't tell S that.  Most of what he has to go through on a daily basis isn't fun, but he can't quit.  It is at that time he must work even harder.

J's activity is just that - an activity.  It is something he chooses to participate in.  S's disabilities aren't anything he chose as he likes to clarify for us quite often.  They aren't an extra activity that he gets to do for fun.  This is his life - every day, 24/7, 365.

So, how do we keep him motivated?
This is more of a challenge.  Yes, the motivation has to come from him, but it isn't always going to be as easy.  We have had to provide a lot of encouragement and some extrinsic "motivation" along the way.  That motivation changes as the child grows up.

When S was young, it was easy to make him stretch every day.  It was what had to be done whether he liked it or not.  If he didn't do it, he lost things.  When S was in Pre-K, we stretched before he went to school.  During that time, he could watch The Wiggles.  If he didn't stretch nicely, we turned the TV off.  If he still didn't stretch nicely, he didn't get to ride the bus to school. If he didn't ride the bus to school, the whole school knew he was having a rough morning.  The principal would meet him at the front door of the school when I brought him to school.  That was motivation to stretch nicely.

Through the years, tactics changed.  It became more of "when you stretch nicely, then you will get _____".  As he continued to become older, his PT told him that it wasn't up to his parents to stretch him.  He needed to stretch himself.  This has been challenging.

There hasn't been much motivation for him to stretch himself.  He is lacking in the "wanting that for himself" department.  He knows why he needs to stretch.  He knows the ramifications of not stretching.  We encourage him to stretch.  We have given suggestions to try to make it more fun.  We tell him that we also need to stretch.  He sees us stretch and exercise.  

He has been better the past few weeks.  He can tell a difference when he is stretching.  For him, that has to be the motivator - "If I stretch, I feel better."  It is that simple.

Regarding his motivation with his ADD, he knows that taking his medication helps him.  He also knows other strategies that help him to work efficiently.  Just because he knows them doesn't mean he always uses them.  He has to be motivated to do so.  He has been quite motivated to get his work done lately because he can visualize on the calendar the end of his school year. Although he isn't excited about graduating, he is excited about being done with school especially before his brother finishes the school year.

Regarding his Low Vision, he knows what tools/techniques are helpful.  He wants to see better, so he is pretty motivated about using those tools.  There was a time period that he wasn't excited about bumping up the font size on the computer, so he could see text better. He now knows it is a helpful technique.

Really, the issue is motivation regarding his Cerebral Palsy.  I can understand that.  It is taxing on him.  It is physically demanding for him to get through a day doing day-to-day tasks. However, not doing the right things for his body isn't going to make it go away.  It is just going to make life more difficult.  I hope he continues to stretch and remembers that stretching makes him feel better.

I will be on the couch with chocolate encouraging my sons to do their best (and continuing "mom motivation" if need be).

Friday, February 20, 2015

Four Snow Days & College Stuff

It has been an unusual week at our house.  My husband took Friday off, and he and J both had Monday off for President’s Day.  This was followed by Tuesday and Wednesday being snow days for both my husband and J. J also had Thursday and Fridays as snow days this week. That's right - 4 snow days!


The Senior
Normally, S doesn’t get much work done when everyone is home; however, he decided he was going to work hard.  He realized that if he was working on J’s snow days that he will actually be ahead of J since his days need to be made up.  Because he has worked so hard all week, I told him he could take today off and there is nothing to make up.  He’s pretty excited about that!

S worked on German IV, History, creative writing, a College Algebra assessment, and took notes for his research paper.  He also finished up a project for a novel we just read.

The exciting part of our week is that S completed his college application!  He still isn’t excited about it.  The conversation went something like this:
Me:  Why aren’t you excited?
S:  I’m just not.
Me:  If you plan on going to college, you need to apply to college.  If you aren’t going to go to college, what is your plan?
S:  I don’t have one.
Me:  Enough said.


After submitting his application, we turned to the “fun” stuff - filling out the FAFSA.

S was supposed to go to the Chiropractor on Thursday; however, it was very icy, so we cancelled that appointment. Snow/Ice + Crutches = Falls

Horseback riding was cancelled because of the weather also. S hasn’t been out of the house since we went to church on Sunday.

S will not be volunteering this weekend.  J has a meet in northern Virginia.  S had made arrangements to stay with friends, but those plans changed.  He is now going with us.  He’s not happy about it.  Oh well!  Life goes on. We are hoping to squeeze a mini field trip in before the meet on Saturday.

The Sophomore
J had a relaxing weekend with very little homework to complete.  He had Monday off for President’s Day and finished up some AP History questions.  He had snow days on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. He is ready to go back to school!

J helped my husband shovel our driveway and a path in our neighbor’s driveway.  This lady is a member of our church and lives two doors down from us.  She is on Hospice care, so J and my husband made sure there was a pathway cleared for the home health nurse.  They also shoveled out a patch on the street for her to park her car.
J had the opportunity to drive a little bit in the snow. He helped move vehicles out of the driveway. He realized the difference between driving a truck with 4 wheel drive and a car in the snow.

J only practiced 10.5 hours this week since practice was cancelled Monday and Tuesday.  He was very happy to be back in the gym on Wednesday.  He enjoys practice, and he has a meet this weekend in northern Virginia.  It will be a busy weekend.

On the Homefront
We have had quite a few relaxing, family days this past week.  It has been nice.  We have enjoyed the warmth from the fireplace, watched a lot of movies, played a lot of games, read books, and slept.  It is unusual for any of us to get to sleep in very often, so we all appreciated that opportunity.  The dog even cooperated with us.


We were bummed Wednesday night that Ash Wednesday services were cancelled; however, we understand.  Our pastor posted a link to his sermon, so we could read it at home. It was nice to be able to do that.

The roads are a mess here.  The primary roads are cleaned after a storm, but secondary streets and neighborhood roads are not cleaned here which is why they end up with so many snow days.
This is what our streets look like after day 2 of the snow.  The temperatures dropped again after these pictures, so everything froze again.  

I took the dog out for a walk yesterday morning, slipped, and fell. I have a bruised palm, but that appears to be it. Thank goodness! I broke my arm quite badly three years ago (2 plates and 19 screws), and the surgeon told me another break would be very difficult to fix. I am under orders by my husband to not walk the dog!


We happen to have one of very few snow shovels in our neighborhood (my parents brought it from Minnesota one year), so it makes the rounds during snow weeks.
What did I write this week?

I am going to shamelessly plug my husband’s blog.  He writes about things that go on in our house, but he approaches it from a humorous aspect.  He took some time off from writing while recovering from his shoulder surgery, but he’s back.  His latest post is The Alarm Clock Paradox. Check it out!

It has been a nice week with a lot of time spent on the couch with chocolate.  Enjoy your weekend!

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hippotherapy or Therapeutic Riding

For this Therapy Thursday, I thought I would write about our experiences with hippotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding.  My son has been a client of both hippotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding.  Both have been good for him.  They have each provided him with different benefits at different times in his life.

What is the difference between hippotherapy and therapeutic riding?
Hippotherapy provides therapy services (PT, OT, and/or Speech) on horse.  The focus is on the therapy.  It is not riding instruction.  Our insurance paid for this.

Therapeutic riding is focused on teaching riding skills.  Although there can be therapeutic benefits, there isn't a therapy focus.

S joined our family when he was 4, and we lived in Alabama.  The Special Education team at his school told us that the PT who had the contract to serve the school also had a private clinic which provided PT, OT, and Speech.  This clinic had a traditional clinic setting in which play was emphasized for the children to work on their skills, and they also used hippotherapy.

This was amazing for S!  He was a client there for 3 years.  For a young child who is going to therapy twice a week for 2 hrs/visit, what a great opportunity!  He had PT at both visits, OT at one visit, and Speech at the other visit.  

Twice a week he did hippotherapy for part of his visit, and the other time was in the clinic. They rotated which service was done as hippotherapy. The team he worked with was amazing!  

Therapeutic Riding
S is in his sixth year of therapeutic riding.  We have a friend who used to volunteer at the facility S rides at now.  She had been telling us for a couple of years prior to S starting there about the program.  He kept saying he wasn't going to do therapy on horse.  It took a while for him to realize that they were going to teach him riding skills.  He said he would try it, but he was NOT going to do therapy on horse!

The staff at the facility laughed at this.  He was right.  He wouldn't be doing therapy on horse; however, he would definitely get some therapeutic benefits from riding. Long story short, he loves it!  

For S, both hippotherapy and therapeutic riding have been beneficial.  He had each service at the right time in his life with the right people.

You will find me on the couch with chocolate and fond memories of good times and good people in our lives.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

An Uncomfortable Sermon

A few weeks ago at our church we celebrated “Sanctity of Life” Sunday.  One of our pastors preached a very passionate sermon on the sanctity of ALL life:  unborn children, elderly, and those who have intellectual or physical disabilities.  As he was preaching about society’s view of the disabled and time periods in which disabled people were viewed as expendable, he used S as an example of someone whose life could be deemed as less worthy than others. After church, he apologized to me for not talking to us about using S as an example first.  

No apology needed.
  1. S is now an adult.  You don’t need to talk to us.  
  2. S feels very strongly about this topic also.  The research paper he finished in December was on the Nazi’s T-4 Program in which elderly people and people with disabilities were systematically killed.  So, his response to me was, “If using me as an example makes people realize there is a problem, then use me.”  
  3. This pastor and S have a very unique relationship, and they have discussed S’s disability before.  When S was in the seventh grade and attending Confirmation class, the class discussed what they thought heaven would be like.  S told the class that in heaven he wouldn’t need crutches, and he would be able to run like everyone else.  

A Reaction
A few days after this sermon was preached someone from our church called my husband to talk to him about S being used as an example.  He didn’t think it was right.  This person felt that it could skew people’s views of S by drawing attention to his disability.  He said he doesn’t think of S that way.  He was very complimentary of S’s intelligence and contributions he brought to the adult Sunday School class on the history of the church.  We know that this person is a kind and caring person who called out of love and concern.

S’s thoughts
S heard my end of the conversation with my husband after he spoke to the concerned person from church.  

  1. Again, he said, “If using me as an example makes people realize there is a problem in this world, then use me.”
  2. He likes being known as S - not the person with a disability.  He appreciates people looking past his crutches and getting to know him as a person.  However, S the person still has a disability that needs to be taken into account regarding mobility and vision issues in the church.

Our thoughts
  1. You can’t draw attention to S’s disability.  S’s disability is pretty visible.  
  2. While it is intended as a compliment that this person doesn’t see S that way, the reality is that S has a disability.  We appreciate the fact that many people have looked past his disability to see S as a person.  However, people need to realize that we have parishioners in our church who are disabled, and it impacts their ability to get to church and get around the church, participate in various activities, see the screen during worship, hear the service, etc.  
  3. If our pastor using S as an example made some people uncomfortable, good.  I’m glad that it bothers you to think that just because my son has a disability that some people in this world have viewed or continue to view him as expendable.  I’m glad you have come to know him and know that it would be a loss in everyone’s world if S was not here.

We are blessed to be in a church that is filled with loving people looking out for others.  

You know where to find me - on the couch with chocolate.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Senior Year - 12 Weeks Left

The Senior
S has had a productive week.  He is now finished with high school science!!!!  He worked diligently on his Low Vision project and completed it early in the week.  In addition to his project, he worked on College Algebra, writing, reading a novel, German IV, and History.

S will be starting his research paper next week.  He was coming up with some really good topic ideas that were also quite in depth.  My husband and I talked about the challenges S has had with research papers and writing.  We told him that his topics are very good, but his research paper skills aren’t quite to the level of the topics he was coming up with.  We told him we wanted to go with a simpler topic, so he can realize that the whole research paper writing process isn’t quite so daunting when he has to put all of these skills together.  We worked with him to create a working outline for his paper, and he will be starting next week.  Fingers crossed! [While we were working on the outline, his ADD was kicking in.  We would be mid-sentence with him, and he would turn to the computer to start looking up information.  Stop! Not there yet!]

S had the opportunity to learn Civics/Government through the best possible means - real life. We have a friend here in Virginia who has been working endlessly, relentlessly, diligently (you pick an adverb) to push for the legalization of cannabis oil to be used with patients who have epilepsy.  We have heard her talk to us about it, watched her on the news, read about the story in the newspapers, and followed her posts on facebook. We contacted our delegate and senator asking for support.  This week the bills passed in their individual houses!  S learned that a small group of people can make a difference.  What an awesome learning experience!

S had another chiropractic appointment this week, so that was a slow school day for him.  He has horseback riding today, and it is going to be chilly.  

The other night we read an article with S about being "Time Blind." It was quite interesting and lines up with our desire to improve S's Executive Function skills. This will be blogged about in the near future. Stay tuned!

He is volunteering 4 hours this weekend.

The Sophomore
J had a relaxing weekend last weekend.  He baked some very yummy chocolate cupcakes with chocolate fudge frosting.  He also made chocolate Oreo truffles and red velvet Oreo truffles.  I’m not a red velvet fan, but everyone else said they were very good.

J had a full week of school this week which was good because he will have Monday off next week.  His homework load wasn’t too bad this week.  In addition to the usual, he had a take-home math test, AP History questions which he had completed last week, and a Spanish quiz (not thrilled about studying for it).

J's favorite studying position - whatever works!

J had practice for 17.5 hours this week.  He has new back up grips, so he had to take some practice time to break them in.  He doesn’t like having to do that; however, he knows it is necessary so he has back up grips ready in case of emergency (Last year, his high bar grips broke 2 days before the state meet.).

On the Homefront
We thoroughly enjoyed our relaxing weekend last weekend!  On Sunday, it was in the 60s here, so we spent time outside.  My husband, J, and I went on a 5 mile trail walk (needed to do something after eating cupcakes and truffles).  S stayed home since this trail isn’t an accessible trail.  He hung out, relaxed, and enjoyed having some free time.  After our walk, my husband took some time to clean off his bookshelf and desk area.  It was long overdue. Enough said!  It looks very nice in there now.

Thursday was my husband’s birthday.  We are going out tonight for his birthday/Valentine’s Day. We will drop J off at practice, go eat, and hang out until J is done. We will celebrate as a family on Saturday since everyone will be home.  He got a new Apple TV for his birthday.  We have one upstairs and one downstairs.  He loves technology tools!

We didn't have candles, so we improvised.

My husband had his physical this week (his numbers look good) and a PT follow up appointment (very pleased with my husband's progress).  I had a hair appointment (love hair days!).  We both attended a VBS leader’s meeting at church last night.  

My husband took today off from work, so we could get some things done that we keep saying we are going to do.    

This weekend - we have another relaxing weekend!  Looking forward to that since next weekend we will be on the road for gymnastics.  

What I have written this week?
I will enjoy my free weekend on the couch with chocolate!
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