Wednesday, October 11, 2017

On grief and love

This week, several of my friends have been impacted by the loss of someone they love. It's heartbreaking to me to watch their lives shatter before their eyes and the changes that happen due to the loss of one person.

My best friend told me some expert advice when my dad died. She said something along these lines...

It never gets easier, the pain never goes away. We just learn to deal with it differently. There are days you won't cry at all then there will be a whole week when you just break down. Sometimes it hits you at the most random times or in the most random places. Your heart feels heavy. Your life will never be the same. It will go on, in a way that's different than you know.

She was right. Six and a half years later I still feel the same way.

She was one of the only people that didn't say "God has a plan" or "God needed him more". When people said that, I knew they were trying to console me. Instead there was a fire in my soul that it added gasoline to. The fire burned bigger and brighter each time. I hated God in that moment. God was the last person I wanted to hear about. My heart was screaming out that there was no way that anyone needed him more than I did.
(Making memories with my babies and my husband)

There was no doubt in my heart that my babies needed to meet the man that raised me, they needed to know him not from me but from him. My babies needed to see his laughter and feel his arms wrapped tightly around them. They needed to see the way that he loved his children and that he loved his grandchildren. They needed to watch him face life fearlessly and live each moment as if it might be his last. If you knew him, you know that he did that.
(Pancakes for my kids, my mom did this for us when we were little and I remember it to this day. Re-creating those memories with my babies!)

What I've learned from all of this, share the love. Whether it's picking up the phone and calling an old friend or sending them a Facebook message. Spend time with the people you love, forget the gifts, build the memories. I can tell you there's not one memory I have with my dad that I regret. Do I have things of his that I remember him by? Sure I do. The things that stick out are the memories we made, not the things I can hold in my hands. Hold those babies tighter. Take that trip, who cares about the couch that could be replaced, the couch can wait, the trip can't. Read that extra book. Go on that extra long bike ride. Don't wake up tomorrow regretting something you could've said but didn't. Make today count.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

"Put your phone down and love me!"

This little guy says that frequently. He's with me at more often then not. He's been going to my work's childcare, he's with me on the days I don't have work obligations, we spend hours on end together. He gets a LOT of one of one attention. He needs a LOT of one on one attention and he has no problem letting me know. "Put your phone down and love me" and then up on my lap he climbs. "Close your computer and love me", "stop doing laundry and love me"

Here's the thing, there's times when I need to finish my email, there's times that phone call can't wait... but in the end, he'll never be this age again. I'll never regret closing my computer to love him. So I do just that. I close that computer, I turn off the phone, I stop the laundry because he needs my love and it can't wait.

This is the last year that I get to have my baby home. This is the only time in my life that I'll have one baby at home for this long without a sibling. I get to really enjoy him, embrace him, figure out his unique personality.

Anyone that knows me close, knows the struggles I've had with this strong willed, creative, stubborn, curious, adventurous little spirit. The last 9-12 months were the hardest of motherhood that I've endured yet. He challenged me. He pushed me to my breaking point nearly I cried. Was I doing it right? How could I parent him? How was he SO different from his siblings? What had I done? How could I help him? How could I be a better mother? How could I be a better mother to them all? It was a struggle, a constant freaking struggle.

I did a lot of things different. I talked to every mother I knew. I talked to mothers of all ages. I felt like I was missing his boat time and time again. We took love and logic courses and I still felt like I was failing. I read books and books about parenting. Then we started a special kind of therapy called PCIT.

PCIT is parent child interaction therapy. Read more about it here. I was so skeptical. Even halfway through, I thought it was stupid and wondered how it would ever help. I emailed a parent that had completed the therapy and asked a million questions. Then, something clicked. Things started working at home. Like crazy working, in a good crazy way. Our relationship started working in a way that I thought was not possible. He was listening because I was giving better directions. The therapy was working for us.

We graduated the therapy well over a month ago. I was warned by our therapist that this might be a "honeymoon" phase and that the part that was working might stop but I needed to remain consistent. Well the honeymoon phase has continued and we're still going strong. I'm beyond thrilled for how this has helped us.

So my sweet boy that loves me more than anything. You remind me daily how much you love me. I will always "put down my phone and love" YOU!

Monday, October 2, 2017

504 complete!

Just like that our 504 is complete! It was way more painless than it was initially made out to be. I think because I reminded the school that I have the ability to be at school for 3 days a week until the 504 took effect. That might have helped... maybe not... but it sure seemed like it was quick.

Our 504 is very basic at this point. My goals were to keep her safe and to keep her RIGHT hand protected. It is the hand that she will use for 100% of things throughout life, so minimizing discomfort or distress on her right hand is essential. So here are some of the keys of our "accommodations" so far:

  • Consultation between the PE teacher, the district PT and myself quarterly (this allows us all to think of body mechanics, safety and ideas to help her)
  • Allow an opportunity of pre-teaching of PE if she were to need something different (meaning she could try the adaptations without the stress of her peers observing for the first time)
  • Close proximity to PE teacher during activities that require strength and balance of upper extremities (this helps keep her safe and helps the teacher be more aware of her)
  • Option of technology (there are tons of options for voice to text, word prediction, see saw, etc that will help her when it comes to writing for lengths of time)
  • Copies of board work (so when a teacher writes a math problem on the board, instead of Bella having to write it then do the problem, she will be given a photo copy of the board work, so less writing for her)
  • Allow more time for activities of daily living (buttoning, zippering, changing to outdoor gear in the winter) 

Understand that a 504 is protected through FERPA so her school can't go talking to anyone about this. Why am I sharing it here? Because when I was trying to find out info as a mom of a child with a limb difference, my search came up pretty empty. It was frustrating. I want other parents to not have the frustrations that I felt.

Don't these seem basic? To me, yes, but to others, not so much. All of these things come back to safety and limiting fatigue on her right hand. After talking to our friends at Camp No Limits this passed summer, we realized that we could do more to help Bella be successful in school and not have struggles. I'm thankful for a certain mama for encouraging me and almost pushing me to help my child! It takes an army to raise kids and I'm happy to have so many friends helping!

I actually have a meeting with her PE teachers tomorrow morning to discuss football. Her PE teacher requested that I meet with them so we could do some brainstorming together. Love this collaboration! I think it helps us all be on board for getting Bella what she needs to be successful and not have struggles due to her limb difference.

Is this all inclusive? No. As the years progress, her needs will change. We'll meet yearly to discuss her previous 504 and make changes. I can also request to meet to make changes sooner if needed. Likewise, her school/teachers could ask to meet with me for changes. This helps to be sure we are all on the same page for Bella. We will all learn as we go!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Successful 504 meeting

Last week, we had the official 504 meeting. It happened at 7:30 am on a school day. This made it easier for all the parties involved to be there at the meeting. I sent over my schedule openings and then they worked with that. Thankfully my schedule was pretty flexible last week.

Here's who was involved:
Occupational Therapist from the school district (OT)
The school principal
Bella's classroom teacher
The district nurse (there's ONE nurse for the entire district)
The school psychologist (apparently she's in charge of the 504's for our school)
Physical therapist from the school district (PT)
One of the physical education teacher's from her school (there's two)

Who knew so many people were involved? Not me. That said, it was a productive meeting and all parties were highly valuable for our situation. I'll give you the run down of the roles every one played so that if someone else is ever in our situation, hopefully they can understand it better.

The OT had called me earlier in the week to discuss my concerns. She also had observed Bella in the classroom prior to calling. I didn't know she was observing. Turns out Bella also didn't realize she was observing. She was pretty discrete about the whole thing it sounds like from Bella's standpoint and hers.

The school principal weighed in occasionally about what needed to be actually written in the plan and gave her thoughts on the plan as we went along.

Bella's classroom teacher explained what she had already seen and done as well as her plans for the year. You know those stubborn paper towel holders that need "two hands" to get the towel to come out. She put a stack of paper towels in a drawer below the sink for Bella. I love that she thought of that! She said other kids are welcome to use them too but it's there so she doesn't have to mess with it. What a thoughtful thing! She talked about technology moving forward. She discussed how the kids usually write the math problem that she writes then solve it. For Bella, she's going to photocopy the page (no copy right laws are effected) and then Bella can write the answer. For long writing, they can have her do talk to text... there were tons of plans she had! I was impressed with her forward thinking. Loved it!

The district nurse explained verbiage for the 504 to be effective. She helped to think of when to call me and how to notify me of problems as well.

The school psychologist read the words from the 504 legal page as well as noted our plans. She has to be sure Bella "qualifies"... to me that was a joke but whatever I get it. It's a process that must be followed to a T for it to be effective and be a proper legal document. She also helped keep us on track.

The physical therapist mostly just listened. He'll weigh in more when PE comes into play if we meet challenges. I'm happy he's involved so that he's aware of Bella and the fact that she may have some needs.

The PE teacher discussed the curriculum for the year. She talked about things that she's been thinking about, like hockey, pickle ball, gymnastics. She asked questions about her "sports arm" prosthetic and when and how to use it. I walked her through the process but Bella does most of it on her own. We talked about how once we meet some of those more challenging skills in PE that we as adults will come to a decision on having her utilize her prosthetic. Though I want her to be involved, there are some times adults just have to make the decision to keep her safe, physically, mentally and emotionally. We'll work with her too when it comes to that. Her PE teacher and the physical therapist talked about having her have the option to try some of those skills without her skills, like practicing holding a hockey stick before she's charged to do it in front of her class. I thought that was a great idea.

The meeting stayed on track and lasted 55 minutes. In my opinion, it was very effective. We are currently waiting to see the "finalized" 504 plan. I have no doubts that it will not be a problem.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Just say no

Remember D.A.R.E from 5th grade? Yeah I sure do. I took a lot of lessons from those sessions but I think I missed one. I must've missed the "just say no" part. I've completely and utterly overextended myself yet again. I mean who can't work full-time, be the PFC co-president, volunteer to do the kids class parties, teach a new class, maintain (or better yet grow) a marriage, keep three kids alive, and a dog, and four chickens, workout, eat healthy, try to be a better me for me, have good relationships with my kids, grow friendships, cultivate old friendships, keep up with emails, write agendas for meetings, organize camping trips, go camping then unpack from said trips, maintain a house, pay bills on time, grocery shop... I mean you get it, right?

This train wreck has pulled into the station and is taking a long, hard look at life. The "just say no" part of D.A.R.E was SO important, how come they only apply it to drugs and alcohol? Maybe they should have a refresher in college, when you are married, then again when you have kids... just saying! Today, I'm reevaluating.

What are my goals to be a better me? A better me means doing all of the things that I love too and not forgetting those in the shuffle. Part of being a better me means working out, giving attention to my kids, growing my marriage, helping friendships continue to grow... I have a big agenda and it's not getting smaller any time soon. For me, I'm going to start focusing on saying no instead of maybe, instead of yes, instead of let me think about it. Not because I WANT to say no, but because I NEED to say no... for me, for you, for everyone I love and adore.

Trust me, no one will die in the process of me saying no. No one will die if I don't do ALL of the class parties. My students will survive with me giving my all and cutting that all off by 10 pm. They need me sane as well as prepared. Lack of sleep leaves me unprepared and not sane, that's for sure. The junk mail, the junk emails, they can wait. The pile of papers by the door, that can wait too. The deep cleaning that I really want to do because it makes ME feel good, it'll have to wait.

There will be bumps along this road but I'm done overextending me. I'm doing what I need to do for me. Part of that includes increasing my water intake... simple yet forgotten. Part of that includes working out, lifting heavier weights and working out for less time. Part of that means sitting by the campfire to soak in the stars with my family.

Yes, this blog is about Bella. Ultimately, this blog is meant to help parents, women, mamas, working mamas... it's meant to help whoever it needs to help. Today, I'm hoping it helps you. Take a lesson from this mama, just say no. It's okay, I promise.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

My tender little heart

Yesterday was the first day of school, I'll share those highlights later. Tonight, I almost cried while listening to our Bella read about history. Blah, most boring thing ever to this mama. She had read me a book and I was reading her a book about President Truman. One line red "During his presidency, some Americans criticized him."

"What does criticize mean mama?"

"Hm... it kind of means like judge people."

"Like how? Give me an example."

"Bella your math is not that good, you really aren't good at math." She smiled. Then she stopped.

Deep in thought, she said "That's what Mike (*name changed for privacy) did to me last year. He criticized me all of the time. That's tough."

"Yeah that didn't make you feel good. It can make people work harder because they see it as a challenge OR it can make you sad because you are trying your best and they are hurting you."

"Yeah but here's the thing. It did make me work harder. It also made me be nicer to Mike. He needed that from me. You never really know what other people need. He needed that because you don't know if someone hasn't been nice to him or what his life is like at home. You just don't know. Being kind to him, showed him that I wouldn't criticize him back."

"Wow Bella, you impress me. That would have really frustrated me and I'm not sure if I could have been nice like you. I'm super proud of you for thinking about what he needs even it's hard for you."

Just like that, we continued reading. Then we stopped and snuggled. I told her how proud I was of her and how happy I was that she was my daughter. Proud doesn't even describe the full emotions that I feel for her grown up thoughts. When I grow up, I hope I'm more like her.

Friday, September 1, 2017

My heart and soul

I've had a rough week, as a mom, as an educator, as a wife, as a daughter. I can talk more about that later. With all that said, I've cried 3 times this week. Some weeks are just like that. I was thankful for it to be Friday and have a long weekend before school starts for the kids AND for me too!

Bella was having a rough night. Luca really wanted to sleep with her, the little snuggle bug. She needed some space. She agreed because she knew how bad he wanted to and that we'd allow it because it was the weekend. Then, she melted into a million emotions.

We talked and she expressed a lot of emotions. When I told her that I understood her being stressed out and feeling out of sorts. There's been a lot going on in our lives individually and as a family. She has such a pure heart and a genuine soul. When we continued talking, she expressed that she trusted "you and Daddy, I really know that I can trust you. If I tell you something and ask you not to tell anyone, you don't." My heart melted into a million pieces. She realizes that she can confide in me and that I won't tell anyone. This says a lot about what she thinks about me. I'm glad that she knows that I'm a trusting person.

As we continued to talk, she made me realize that I'm doing okay as a mom. Sometimes as moms, we really struggle. I struggle with working full time, being a mom, doing volunteer stuff for school, being a wife, a good friend, maintaining our marriage, feeding my soul, working out and feeling strong... it's a constant balance. Sometimes, one side of the scale is heavier than the other. Today it was. Bella said to me "you and dad are really great parents, you really are." I thanked her for sharing that with me. I told her how I was proud of her and that's she's a really great kid.

Tonight, the scale was heavy on the mom side. Tonight, I cried happy tears. My girl gets me.

On grief and love

This week, several of my friends have been impacted by the loss of someone they love. It's heartbreaking to me to watch their lives shat...