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.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Navigating the 504

Apparently creating a 504 is easy for some and more difficult for others.

We were initially told by our principal that a health plan would be a better option for Bella. I trusted her and agreed. Then, after doing my own research, and a lot of it, I disagreed. A 504 would legally protect her and give something in firm writing that would help us to help her.

We were told that "if she qualifies"... I'm not sure how she wouldn't "qualify". If you read the legal language, she "qualifies"... Here is what I sent over to her school: According to the Dept. of Education website, the exact wording is "cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal..."
She was born with a congenital limb difference, which is an anatomical loss affecting her musculoskeletal system. This is documented on my prenatal record, her health care record, as well as easily visible to all.

I'm thankful for the Lucky Fin Project, Born Just Right, and Camp No Limits. Those places are primary places of support for our family in times like this. The people that are part of those sites bend over backwards to help, give advice, give guidance and support. It's essential when navigating things like this. As an "experienced" mom of a child with a limb difference, I'm still learning.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because this is already a trying process. It's taken a lot of effort and energy on my part. I'm working hard to make this happen for Bella. We need to have some things in place to help her continue to be successful in school, without injury and without overusing her right hand. Remember, that if your child has ONE hand, that hand does 100% of the work, 100% of the time.

I'm not saying your child needs a 504 just because they have a limb difference. I'm saying that my child does. She had a neck injury last year at school that could have been prevented. She also has complained over some soreness in her right hand, palm and fingers. I want to be sure I'm doing what's best for you. She's almost in third grade and so far, we've made no adaptations in school for her. This year, there will be some changes. This year, we have thought about some adaptations that will keep her safer and also keep her right hand in good order so that she doesn't cause injury at a young age. Any pressure we can take off of her right hand, we will. Talk to text is something our school utilizes currently so I'm hoping that she will be using it more so save her hand. That's something that can be "built" into our 504.

I want to do anything I can to help our community as well. Our official referral was sent over and now we are waiting once again. I'll keep you posted on the process as I find things out. If you have any questions, comments or advice, feel free to share! I've had a hard time finding 504 information for kids with limb differences. Most of the information that I search is popping up with kids that have ADHD.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Back to school, already?

Our back to school list is posted. I've already done some shopping. I might be slightly obsessed with getting the best deals possible AND buying some extra. I can't believe it's time for back to school. Part of me loves the routine, part of me is dying that this means summer is coming to an end.

I keep seeing parents post on Facebook about back to school and supplies. I'll share with you our back to school list.

Parents are seriously complaining about "50 pencils?" and "15 glue sticks". Really? I mean I found a 24 pack of pencils for $1, buy three and you are well over your 50 mark. Have you had a kindergartener AND volunteered in the classroom? Holy glue sticks. Kids leave the caps off, glue dries out. They also use it every day for gluing word work, it's a lot of glue people!

Why do I care? I care because are you bringing your negative attitude home to your kids? What sort of excitement are you creating? I never once heard my parents complain about back to school shopping or school supplies, not once. Here's the thing, your attitude wears on your kids. The good and the bad. They are watching you.
(Obsessed with wolves and beyond thrilled about his wolf backpack!)

My mom especially brought TONS of excitement for back to school. She ahh'd and oooh'd over our supplies and how fun it was to get new stuff. She made the process of packing our backpacks fun. Maybe that's where my love of back to school comes. My mom even makes it fun for MY kids! She offered to take them to buy a new outfit, lunchbox and backpack. She's crazy :) I promise that my kids are excited to get a "date" with her. Date days are the best days.

How much have I spent? So far, about $10 on each kid. I'm almost done. I still have to get spiral notebooks. My advice, start early, watch sales, buy what's on sale then wait for other sales, get a little each week.

Why am I sharing this? I'm sharing because it doesn't have to be a big expense. However, I'm mostly sharing because as an educator myself, don't we want our kids to have plenty of all of the tools that they need to be successful? Don't we want to arm them to succeed? Do we want them to have to worry about too many broken pencils or not enough erasers? No, they are kids. Excite them about education. Be the one that pushes them to do their best. Be their biggest support and the most positive energy in their life.

At the end of the day, 50 pencils should be the least of your worries.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Backpack shopping tips

1.     Pick the right size- I’ve always opted for a normal size backpack, not the kid size.

2.     Pick something durable- Yes the elmo one is SO cute, but it’ll wipe out after just a couple months of school. Then, you’ll be buying another $15 backpack that will meet it’s death soon after… by the end of the year, you’ll have spent at least $30 on backpacks.

3.     Pick one with decent straps- The straps are what they feel on their shoulders, the more padding, the more comfortable. They should be adjustable so you can fit your child correctly, curved straps are also more comfortable for daily wear.

4.     Pick one your kid likes- This ensures that they won’t freak out after a few months. The other thing about character backpacks is that my kids are over that character pretty quickly. We’ve always picked a design that’s more neutral.

5.     Zippers, snaps, buckles- does everything work with ease? Highly important. We bought a cheap backpack that had a zipper that lasted for 2 months. We’ve also had threads break and get caught in the zippers.

Have fun with it! We picked Grayson a bag that was out of our normal qualities and it failed. It was the perfect style with a wolf on the bag but it wasn’t durable or comfortable and the zipper was a big bummer. Bella, however, has had the same bag for two years. She was able to get another bag at a rummage last year that was the same brand but a different style. We typically stick with Jansport because their quality is amazing. I’ve had the same Jansport bag since I was in nursing school, 15 years ago! Are you kidding me? That’s serious quality. That bag went through the ringer and back.

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 t...