Friday, May 29, 2015

Not quite finished...

The Senior
Life is pretty chill for S at this point in his life.  He is working on finishing up German IV, and he will then be finished with his high school career.  Fourteen years of school (7 1/2 years being homeschooled) will be wrapped up when that course is finished!  [I am just now realizing that he has been homeschooled longer than he attended public school.  Wow!]

The fact that he is graduating has become real to him.  He is accepting this reality (especially since graduation cards and gifts are starting to arrive in the mail).

Things are falling into place for him.  We are getting answers about his transportation dilemma - not necessarily helpful answers to fix the issue but answers nonetheless.  These answers along with some additional information allow us to contact other agencies to try to work out transportation.  We have a friend who has offered to drive S to school one day/week next year if need be.

S is still waiting to hear from the community college about whether or not he needs to take the Math placement test. His transcript for College Algebra was sent to the school and the tracking number shows that it was delivered on May 11. He was told last week that they hadn't seen it. He emailed them with all of the details. Still waiting....

S is going to continue volunteering at the museum this summer.  He has the opportunity to job shadow the Historian there.  He has also contacted another museum about some learning opportunities there.  These items have been done by him - he took the initiative.

It will all work out!  We just keep reminding ourselves and S of  that.

Last weekend S ate his way through the Food and Wine Festival at Busch Gardens.  Oh my word! He didn't make it to a couple of food stands, so he knows we need to go back so he can finish up.

He volunteered for 6 hours on Memorial Day and said they were busy at the museum.  He has horseback riding this morning, and we are heading out of town this afternoon for a friend’s graduation.

The Sophomore
J has had a crazy week again.  Last Friday he had a nephrology appointment for his blood pressure.  Turns out he needed blood work for this appointment, and he needed to be fasting. We didn't know that prior to his appointment.  

Tuesday morning he was back at the lab for a blood draw prior to going to school.  The challenge for J to fast is that he is starving after practice, so he had to go in on a morning when he didn't have practice the day before.  

Tuesday afternoon J had an Orthodontics appointment.  It was his final check before he is scheduled to get his braces off June 1.  The orthodontist said words J did not want to hear, "We will see on Monday.  There is still a small gap here that should really be closed up first." We are praying that he can get them off on Monday.  He has had them on almost 3 years, and he has been diligent about doing everything the orthodontist has asked of him.

J has a Spanish project due next week, but he finished most of it last weekend.  He had to stay after yesterday to make up a Math test that he missed because he was attending the Magnet program awards ceremony on Tuesday when the test was given.

We are trying to coordinate J's behind the wheel instruction so he can get his license.  He is ready.  He went up to our vet clinic and told them he would like to volunteer up there this summer.  Hopefully, that will all work out.  Our neighbor boy did that when he was in high school, and he is now applying to vet school.

J had practice 10.5 hours this week (no practice on Memorial Day and he will be traveling tonight).

On the Homefront
Things are crazy at our house, and I don't think that is going to change until after graduation and  our trip to Minnesota.  We are leaving for South Carolina this afternoon to celebrate with a family friend as she graduates this weekend.  She texted us last month and said, "I need my peeps!"  It will be a quick trip, but it will be fun.

While S volunteered on Monday, my husband, J and I spent time at the beach.  Love going to the beach!  

My husband started working on S's slideshow for graduation.  We finalized S's food choices for his party.  We still need to buy plates, napkins, silverware, etc.  My sister-in-law has purchased 15 boxes of Cheesecake bites from Trader Joe's for one of the dessert choices. They are delicious!


We finalized our trip plans last weekend and made hotel reservations.  We shifted a few things around.  We are visiting the University of Iowa on the front end of our trip rather than on the way home.  J is also going to visit the University of Minnesota.  It will be time for our trip before we know it.  Hopefully the drive will go by as quickly!  The last time we drove to Minnesota the boys were 4 and 2.  A parent at gymnastics practice the other night said, “The drive should be so much better now that they are older.”  One would think so…..

What did I write this week?
My son is not a quitter.

You will find me on the couch with chocolate after our trip to South Carolina.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My son is not a quitter.

I have always enjoyed watching gymnastics.  What has amazed me the most is not the skills the gymnasts do but the fact that if they fall they must pick themselves up, continue on with their routine, and finish the meet.  There is no time for self pity or wallowing.  They must move forward.

My youngest son is a gymnast and has just finished his seventh competition season. I am still amazed, even more so, by the poise and determination these athletes possess in those situations.

At J's final gymnastics meet of the season, his first event was vault.  He had just warmed it up, and it looked really good.  He felt really good about it.  He was the first competitor on the event.  He ran down the runway, did a roundoff onto the springboard, shot left, and missed the vault table.  He stood up, saluted the judges, and walked off to the chairs.  

We knew he was disappointed with his vault, but he doesn't let his feelings show during meets. He had five more events he needed to do yet.  Throughout the remainder of the meet, he had two personal best scores.  He did a new skill that he hadn't competed before.  All of this after the vault.  

What was our takeaway from the meet?  Our son didn't quit.  No matter what happened, he gave it his all.  He stood up with confidence and continued the meet to the best of his ability. This is an awesome skill to have.

We are blessed to have two boys who possess this skill.  The difference is that one chooses to be in an activity where this skill is helpful.  The other one must possess this skill to get through his day to day life.

For S, life is not easy having Cerebral Palsy.  He falls often, literally.  Every time he falls, he picks himself up and continues on with what he was doing.  He doesn't quit.  Ever.  Sometimes he gets hurt when he falls, but he still picks himself up and continues on.  Every time.  He doesn't quit.  He doesn't want help getting back up.  He wants to do it himself.  Every time.

As a mom, there are times (okay many times) I am concerned about their future.  I get it.  It's a mom thing.  At the end of the day, I don't need to be worried.  

My sons are not quitters.  Either of them.  They will pick themselves up every time they fall.  If one can't get up by himself, the other one can and will help.

I will be on the couch with chocolate appreciating the tenacity and perseverance that my boys have.  

Friday, May 22, 2015

Almost to the end of Senior year!

On the Homefront
You know it's been a crazy week when I start with the homefront first.  Our calendar has looked like a mosaic with all of the different colored boxes overlapping and butting up next to each other.  This week the boys have had 3 medical appointments, 2 meetings, an SOL test, and college placement testing.  This is on top of regularly scheduled activities - horseback riding, youth group, and gymnastics practice.  And, my husband had a church meeting squeezed in there.  My husband and I are tired!

Although it was a crazy, busy week, these were all necessary things that were accomplished. That is always a good feeling.  

We have a fairly relaxed weekend ahead of us, so we are looking forward to that.  We are going to a cookout Saturday evening.  We have 2 invitations for Sunday.  Not sure we will make it to both.  S is volunteering all day Monday.  As long as the weather is nice, my husband, J, and I will hang out at the beach during that time.  Looking forward to that!

The Senior
S has had things on the calendar every day this week - Chiropractor, Social Security meeting, College Placement testing, Youth Group, meeting with DBVI Vocational Rehab counselor, and horseback riding.  

With all of the various agency meetings S has had to attend lately, there have been a lot of discussions at home about his future.  They are always interesting conversations as S’s ADD starts to run rampant.  My husband does a good job of summarizing our conversations in his post, Simple problem solving.

This was a week of getting answers and planning the next steps forward. All of the frustration S has felt in the weeks building up to this point is gone as he sees how it all fit together. He got through the wave. Last night was one of the first nights in a LONG time that we didn't have things we needed to get together or discuss or finish something up. He enjoyed that very much.

The big news this week is that S is done with English!!!!  He has one class to finish up for his senior year - German IV.  As he told me yesterday, “You know, I can sit and do that for hours.”  

He hasn't volunteered all month since he has been working hard to cross things off his to-do list. He will be volunteering for 6 hours on Memorial Day.

Tonight we are going to Busch Gardens to partake in the Food and Wine Festival while J is at practice. J figured S could eat his way through the park tonight and make recommendations for when he is able to go. The Food and Wine Festival is S's favorite activity there!

The Sophomore
J had a busy week also.  He started his week with bloodwork for his allergy testing.  He has ended his week with a 730 appointment with the Pediatric Nephrologist for a follow up for his high blood pressure.  My husband took him to the early appointment.

In between his bookend appointments, he had an SOL History test for school.  He has some projects to work on this weekend.  He finished up a project last weekend and is turning it in today (early) for extra credit.

He only had practice for 4 days this week since his coach was just returning from vacation.  J was glad to be back in the gym although he got a nasty rip the first night of practice this week!


What did I write this week?

After this crazy week, you will find me on the couch (and the beach) with chocolate!

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

How much did he cost? and other questions

When I saw that this week’s Adoption Link Up topic was “Answering those questions”, I figured I was good.  I had written something on this topic and stuck it away. As I opened the file, I realized why I stuck it away.  It was quite snarky and not really helpful to anyone.  Did I feel better after I wrote it?  Maybe but that’s not going to be informative unless I’m trying to inform you of my snarkiness.  So...I tweaked it but kept the original file.

A little background on our family
My husband and I have been through the adoption process twice.  Our first was 16 years ago. Our second was 14 years ago. Each process was different.
  1. Private/Agency
  2. American child/Bulgarian child
  3. Newborn/4 year old
  4. Process time: 6 weeks/1 year
  5. Living in Germany/Living in the United States

What has been the same in both situations are the questions that people feel they are entitled to ask since we didn’t form our family in a conventional method.  We have been asked some interesting questions especially since we adopted a child who had Cerebral Palsy.

I’m not saying that all questions are bad because they are not.  There are people asking questions who are sincere in what they are asking.  There are also people who are being nosy. We can tell the difference.

Questions that stick out in our memories:
1. “How much did he cost?”  A developmental pediatrician asked us this about S at a multidisciplinary appointment.  Needless to say, that was the last time we saw him.

2. “Why would you adopt a child with those problems?”  We have handled this a couple of different ways.  Option 1:  “What problems?”  Option 2:  “Why not?”  

3. “Did you try to have a baby?”  This, generally, falls into the nosy category.  We had a Battalion Chaplain ask us this question. Again, we can tell the difference. He was being nosy!

4. “What do you know about their real parents?”  We are their real parents.  We have information about their birth parents, but it’s private information for our children.  

5. “Why didn’t you adopt a girl? Then you would have a boy and a girl.”  We could have checked the box for a girl for our second adoption since we already had a boy; however, we knew that we were open to a boy or a girl.  We also knew that it would be made clear to us when the time was right.  When I saw S’s picture for the first time, I knew we would be bringing a boy into our family.  When my husband saw his picture, he said, “That’s our son.” We have the children God wanted us to have.  

6. “Why would you adopt internationally? There are children in America who need to be adopted.”  True.  The process is long and not as easy as you would think it should be.  We looked into it.  

These are the biggies.  Of course, they can be followed with:
“You know you took the easy way out, right?”
“Do you think you will be able to love them as much as if you had your own kids?  
"Are they brothers?"  

Fortunately, the people asking these questions are a much smaller population than those who have supported us on this journey.  We are much wiser and more experienced in fielding these questions since we went through the process a while ago.  Sometimes we answer the questions, and sometimes we will just ignore the question. People usually get it.

I will be on the couch with chocolate and my family enjoying life!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Graduation is coming - ready or not!

My son is a senior.  My son is almost finished with the school year.  My son is going through commencement on June 13.  My son is not excited about this change.  He isn’t doing a countdown to the end of the year.  He may/may not be trying to prolong some of his work to keep the end from happening; however, it’s coming.

As the end of the school year is rapidly approaching, my son is also having to attend to many different transition areas:
*Meeting with Social Security
*Trying to figure out transportation since his pickup point is too far from our house and it isn’t safe to get there (no sidewalks)
*Teleconferences and meeting with his Vocational Rehab counselor to create an Individualized Employment Plan (There is great stress/anxiety involved with this since he doesn’t know exactly what he wants to do when he grows up.  We tell him it is one step at a time.)
*Placement tests at the community college  

The reality for him is that this is going to happen.  He is more accepting of it, but it doesn’t mean he likes it.  He informed me one afternoon that “growing up sucks!”  Whether or not it does, we tell him repeatedly that it is happening.  Embrace it!

All that being said, Monday was a breakthrough moment for him.  Last Friday he had a teleconference with his Voc Rehab counselor to discuss some ideas for his employment plan which will be developed at a meeting on Thursday.  

[On any given day, his plans for the future change.  He has ADD and is always in “think” mode about his options for the future.  We are okay with that, but the counselor needs something to write down on his plan.  My son’s passion is History, and we have discussed many different career paths for a History major.....]

So, he told his counselor he thought he might go with a Business degree which has been "briefly" discussed before.  

Three days later, on Monday morning, he told me that he spent a lot of time thinking about his future over the weekend and he feels strongly about pursuing a career in History.  I told him that he would need to discuss that with his Voc Rehab counselor at their meeting on Thursday.  

“Oh, I already talked to her.”  
“I called her this morning and told her my thoughts.  I explained to her that I really want to do something History related.”

Wow!  I told him I was impressed with him taking control of the situation and contacting her.  

Within 30 minutes of the above conversation, he had talked himself into possibly pursuing an Economics degree.  At that point, I told him he can’t call his counselor every time he changes his mind.  He laughed because he knows how frequently he is doing it.  

Graduation is coming.  He is now looking forward to the festivities involved with it, but he still thinks that growing up sucks.  Gotcha!  It’s happening though.

I will be on the couch with chocolate observing my son as he is getting ready to graduate...and wondering when that little 4 year old boy who came into our lives 14 years ago grew up.

Friday, May 15, 2015

What My Senior Thinks & Testing

The Senior
S has been working to get his last two classes finished.  I won’t say he is working joyfully because he isn’t.

This is what I heard from him on Tuesday…

“I think we should make a deal.”
“I think since I am so close to being finished that you should cut me some slack.”
“I think that I shouldn’t have to write the last essay.”
“I think since you are more excited about me being done than I am that you should just let me be finished.  Then, you can be really excited.”
“I think that I have too much to juggle right now.”

...and the list goes on.  I told him he doesn’t have to finish German IV since that is an elective, but he must finish English 12.  Guess which class he wants to finish and which one he doesn’t?  In addition to everything else he was thinking that day, he thinks I was being ridiculous.

I will say he continued to plug away at his work, so he gets a shout out for that.
This was almost an appointment/activity free week for him which gave him a lot of time to get work done.  This was good because he has 3 appointments, youth group, and horseback riding next week.  He needs to talk to transportation also because of his assigned pickup location which isn’t near our house nor is it safe for him to get there (traffic, lack of sidewalks, distance, etc.).  

S has been in frequent contact with the Assistive Technology person at the community college trying to coordinate his accommodations for the placement tests he needs to take.  I have to say that everyone he has emailed at the college has been very quick in their responses.  The AT person has emailed late in the evening and early in the morning.  We were hoping S could get his testing done this week, and he was able to get in to start his English placement test today.  He is there right now.  We are hoping they will waive the Math placement test after they evaluate his request regarding his College Algebra course.  We shall see.  

This afternoon he is doing a telephone conference with his Vocational Rehab counselor prior to their meeting next week.

He did make some graduation party decisions for us which is progress.  Yeah! He knows it is coming.  He has agreed to go to the Senior Meet and Greet which is being held the day before the commencement ceremony.  He also agreed to join the Google group for the graduates.  

The Sophomore
Testing!  That was the word of the week for J and school.  Because it was AP exam week and SOL testing at school, the schedules have been crazy for the kids.  J took his AP History exam yesterday.  He has his Chemistry SOL today.  Next week he will take his History SOL.  Then they will ramp up for finals.

J went to the doctor yesterday to talk about a referral to an allergist.  We talked about if he would be a candidate for allergy shots.  His seasonal allergies are getting worse and he is limited to what he can take due to his high blood pressure.  The doctor has ordered the initial labs for a blood draw; however, J has to wait until Monday since he needs to be off of his allergy medication for at least 3 days.  

He only had practice for 3 days this week because there were other activities at their facility. Since there is no practice tonight, we are heading to Busch Gardens for a little family fun.

On the Homefront
We have accomplished many tasks on our massive to-do lists.  My husband finished sheetrocking the garage for part of my Mother’s Day gift.  It looks very nice out there now. The yard was mowed.  S’s announcements were addressed, stamped, and mailed.  We went to Party City to look at plates, silverware, cups, etc. for the party.  

I have all of the pictures sorted for S’s photo boards.  J is going to finish putting them together this weekend.  There are so many!!  It has been fun looking through the pictures.

What did I write this week?
For some entertaining thoughts from my husband on life with a senior, check out his post - A "Little, Orange" Support Team.  

This weekend you will find me on the couch with chocolate listening to more of my senior's thoughts. Have a good one!

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Take your test scores and.....

Anyone who has a child with special needs has been down the path of testing your child.  The reasoning behind the testing is something like this, “We must test your child so we can see exactly where they are to provide the best education placement possible.”

Having been a former Special Education teacher, I kind of get this thought process.  However, having been a former Special Education teacher, I also know that the test scores don’t give me the complete picture of the child.  I needed to work with the child, talk with the child, observe the child, etc.  The test scores played a very small role in the overall picture.  

And yet….
there is so much emphasis placed on test scores.  You want to label my son, who has multiple disabilities which makes testing him very difficult, and tell me how successful he will be based upon these scores that aren’t normed for a child who has fine motor issues which cause problems with timed tests or vision problems.  

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.  

there is always one person in the meeting who thinks the test scores are “it”.  That person, in this particular meeting, was the school psychologist.  She started spouting numbers like they were written in stone.  I, of course, had already flipped through all the pages to see what the end results said, and it wasn’t pretty.  Had we placed S in an educational program based upon these numbers, we would not be talking about him getting ready to graduate and going to college.  I would not be blogging about his love of History and Foreign Languages.  I would not tell people how he is currently taking German IV and took a year of Russian.  

the rest of the team just wanted a baseline from which to work.  There was no question about his intelligence from them because they had all worked with him individually.  The test scores allowed them to check the box that said they had tested him.

We know that we were lucky to have the overwhelming majority of the team on S’s side.  They wanted to see him succeed academically.  They pushed him to do the best he could in school. The director of Special Education asked me one day if they were pushing too hard.  
“We just want him to be successful, and we don’t want him frustrated.”  
“Oh, you will know if you have pushed him too hard.  It will be VERY clear.”

And then,
we moved.  He was tested again.  

And then,
we moved again.  He went through a triennial review which is hours of testing.  

And then,
we decided to homeschool and that testing stopped.  How nice!  No numbers swirling around anywhere trying to determine what my child can or cannot do.  No numbers trying to dictate his future or educational placement.  

Because we homeschool, we do have to test him at the end of every school year to show progress to the state.  

The numbers are just that….numbers.  They don’t tell me anything I don’t already know.  He has a very strong vocabulary.  He doesn’t do as well with grammar (commas are not his friend).  He does well in long as he writes the problems out and doesn’t try to solve everything in his head.

But now,
as we prepare to send him to college there is a great deal of emphasis on “THE TEST” whether it is the ACT or the SAT.  

in order to get the accommodations S was going to require for either of these tests, we needed current testing data on him. We took him for psychoeducational testing.  So, he had to be tested before the test.  Is that as clear as mud?

Again, the results did not tell us anything we didn’t already know.  Every accommodation that was recommended was exactly what we had told the psychologist he would need.  [I am not hacking on this psychologist.  We brought S in there for this exact purpose.  This doctor was very nice and understood exactly what we were trying to do.]

In the end,
we decided that S would not take the SAT or the ACT. Taking the ACT or the SAT is not going to prove to anyone how well S will or will not do in school.  Only by working with him, talking to him, watching him, understanding how much time and effort he puts into his schoolwork will anyone understand how successful he will be.

he will take the placement tests at the community college which is where he will start school in the fall.  We are hoping this will be done in the next 2-3 weeks.  He is working to get his accommodations in place at this point. This is a much easier process and less stressful for him.

you can take your test scores and……find me on the couch with chocolate.

Friday, May 8, 2015

End of the Year Craziness

The Senior
S has had a busy week.  He is working diligently to finish up his last two courses, English and German IV.

It has also been a busy week of working on his to-do list.  He has made contact with various agencies and offices.  He is working hard to coordinate accommodations for his placement tests at the college.  His Vocational Rehab counselor at DBVI was happy to hear from him.  An appointment has been scheduled to meet with her.  He has one week that already has 4 appointments scheduled.  He’s not excited about that; however, they will be done.

S still struggles with the challenge of not knowing what he is going to do when he grows up. We have tried explaining to him, along with the help of other adults in his life, that it is okay to not know exactly.  People change their minds as they are exposed to other opportunities.  He has been told that he needs to move forward.  Indecision can’t stop you from doing something. I think he’s getting it, but the challenge is real.  

S had a chiropractic appointment on Monday (she was an adult who gave guidance referencing the above topic).  This morning he had horseback riding.  He isn’t volunteering again this weekend.  Still trying to give him time to wrap some things up.

The Sophomore
J had a busy week at school.  They are gearing up for exams.  He has his AP History exam next week and a Chemistry SOL (VA’s standardized tests) the next day.

J had a doctor’s appointment Monday morning for a very swollen lymph node behind his ear (visible across the room).  They realized while we were there that he needed another immunization.  They could do it that day or come back as a walk-in.  We have tried the walk-in option before.  It’s not as simple as they make it sound.  He said, “I’m here.  I will do it today.”

J had 14 hours of practice this week.  He stayed home Monday night.  His text to me after school had a poop emoji and the phrase “I feel like I’m dying.” His allergies are really bad, and he can’t take a lot of medications to help with them because of his high blood pressure.  The doctor thinks that is what caused his lymph node to be so swollen; however, she measured it and recorded it. It fell into the monitor category. It is much smaller now.  

J spent time creating t-shirts for a family reunion we will be attending this summer while we are in Minnesota.  My mother-in-law’s family is having a reunion.  There are 9 kids in her family. We worked it so S’s graduation party would be around the same time.  My husband hasn’t seen many of his cousins in 20+ years.  He would like to see them.  Each sibling’s family was designated a color to wear.  J said he would design a shirt for our group to wear.  We placed the bulk order this weekend, so I guess we better remember to bring them with us.

On the Homefront
We were able to get a lot done on our to-do list last weekend only to continue adding things.  I need longer paper.  

I ended up having the flu Saturday night.  Yeah!  That wasn’t fun. Thank goodness I was the only one who had it.  Unfortunately, that meant we couldn’t preview our family pictures on Sunday.  We are doing that this weekend.

We are continuing to work on our to-do list.  The calendar is filling up quickly with J’s exam schedule and S’s appointments.

J and I have been working on S’s photo boards for his graduation party.  Since we are taking the party on the road, everything needs to be done before we get there.  We want to enjoy our time in Minnesota without having to do additional tasks that could have been done already (like the photo boards).  It has been a lot of fun going through the pictures.

This weekend we are going to keep working on our list.  For Mother’s Day, we are going to enjoy time together.  We are grilling for supper that night.  The men in my house are good cooks.  I am very thankful for that!

What did I write this week?

Happy Mother’s Day!  I will be on the couch with chocolate enjoying my family.

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