Friday, June 26, 2009

Aloha Friday #17 - Summer Camping!

It's Aloha Friday! As a reminder, Aloha Friday is a blogging tradition that originally started with Kailani over on An Island Life. I ask you a simple question, and you answer! It's a great way to interact with family and friends and to meet new bloggy friends along the way! To participate, just head over to Kailani's blog and follow the instructions. do not have to link up to answer the question!

Today's question is:
Do you go camping as a family? If you so, do you have a tent, tent trailer, or RV/5th wheel trailer?

Today, I'm packing up for our first weekend camping trip of the summer! Last year was our first year to camp - ever - so it was a pretty steep learning curve! We have a nice, big, 3 room tent that has worked really well for our family so far. Throughout the summer last year, I worked on making a master packing list, that I keep on the computer. When it's time to go camping, I just print out a fresh list and cross things off as I pack. We pretty much have everything contained to 4 Rubbermaid tubs, plus the coolers for cold food. The tent, sleeping bags, and mattresses go in the car top carrier we have for skis in the winter. I have all the grocery shopping done, so I don't have to run out for that today. Last year, we had to buy EVERYTHING because it was our first year. Last night, when we pulled everything out of the storage room, it was so nice to already have everything we need! Sara and Sky are so excited! We are going to our favourite spot, about an hour and a half away. There's a lake with a really great beach and huge playground right on the edge of the water! The water is shallow for a long way out, so it's great for small children...and quite warm! We're hoping the nice weather we've had lately holds up for the whole weekend. Now I'm off to bake some muffins and pack up our clothing! I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend!

P.S. You have to check out our favourite camping meal - Daddy's Yummy Campfire Meal. I posted this on the recipe blog I participate in, Recipeasy, last summer. You'll love it - I guarantee it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Encourage and Inspire Award

Today I was honoured to receive this beautiful award from my bloggy friend, Kelly, over at My Voice, My View. I couldn't believe Kelly would be sharing this award with me, because she is the one with the inspiring, encouraging blog! A few months ago, Kelly found my blog (do you remember how you found me, Kelly?), and started leaving comments - for every post! She definitely has the gift of encouragement! After I realized she was following my blog, I started to follow hers as well. Kelly has one of the most encouraging, and "real" blogs of all the ones I read. I've laughed and cried with this complete stranger! I have truly appreciated our new bloggy friendship. Thanks, Kelly, for sharing this with me.

There are other blogs that I read regularly that are also an encouragement and inspiration to me, each in their own way. So, I would like to share this award with with these dear friends:

1. Emily, at Macaroni and Cheese
2. Nadine, at Daughter of the King
3. Mary Kathryn, at Love, Life, Family
4. Kerry, at Shealy Stories (this is a private blog)

5. Sarah, at Sarah, Short and Gaudy

May each of you be inspired or encouraged by someone today!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Yesterday's Outcome

Yesterday was exhausting, hopeful, stressful, and encouraging all rolled into one big ball of emotions. I'll try to be brief.

The doctor:
- I didn't like the unattractive, poorly lit office. Bad vibes right from the start.
- The doctor was rude to Sky right off the bat. She (the doctor) asked Sara what grade she was in. Before Sara could answer, Sky blurted, "Grade 2!" She looked at him, with no smile or teasing in her voice at all, and said, "Are you Sara?"
- I was informed on the phone that this appointment was strictly for meeting the doctor and gathering family history. I kind of hoped that we could address the autism issue a little, but after telling myself that probably wouldn't happen, I left my list of concerns and symptoms at home.
- I was forced to explain all of Sara's "faults" while she sat right next to me. My heart was breaking and I was stumbling all over my words, trying to say things with as many big words or vague terms so that Sara would be spared as much as possible.
- The doctor was obviously not a big fan of homeschooling. I didn't like the tone of her questions, especially the ones about socialization.
- I left with a requisition for a urine test at the lab (Sara still has daytime bladder control problems quite frequently) and the referral to a neurodevelopmental clinic.
-I also left wanting to cry, but I found the courage to paste on a smile and stay upbeat for Sara's sake. Poor kid. She didn't say much, but I can only imagine how she was feeling. I know I felt like an idiot.
- The referral is the one good thing I got out of the visit. I have to fill out a couple of forms, return it to the doctor, who will then send it to the neurodevelopmental clinic. She said the clinic would probably not give me booking until we had the results from Sara's academic assessment back. I'm getting Shelley's help with the form (my friend who worked with autistic kids).

Interview with Susan Peacock:

- Completely different atmosphere - my nerves were soothed immediately.
- When Susan came out to call us into her office, she looked straight into Sara's eyes and kindly said, "And you must be Sara!" That was not lost on me.
- Her first question was, "Have you explained to Sara what we're doing?" Her concern for Sara as a little person was very evident.
- The conversation with Susan was easy, relaxed and full of hope. She wanted to know the struggles, but she also wanted to know Sara's strengths.
- She wrote everything down which showed me that she cared and that she was going to be thorough. She never made us feel stupid for anything we shared. If it was important to Joshua or I, she made it important to her too.
- Susan affirmed us as parents and as Sara's teachers. She said something very early on in our conversation that I will never forget. She said, "Because you are homeschooling Sara, you are already 99% ahead of all the other (schooling) options out there." I think Joshua and I both really needed to hear that from an "expert." I was so encouraged with how pro-homeschooling she was.
- She assured us that at the end of this assessment, we would have answers and would be equipped with tons of ideas and suggestions to help Sara as we continue to homeschool. She was incredibly positive and we so needed that as a family.
- Sara's first one-on-one session with Susan is next week on Tuesday, at 10 a.m. She's going to try 2 hours to begin with, and see if Sara can handle that much. If not, she said we can cut the sessions back to 1 1/2 hours or even down to 1 hour if we need to. Our total number of hours with Susan will come to about 11 hours, so we'll just get there at the pace that's right for Sara.
- Sara seemed comfortable enough with Susan. A little shy, but that's to be expected! Joshua and I laughed on the way home, because by the end of the hour with Susan, Sara was exhibiting some very ADHD symptoms! Being cooped up in an office for an entire hour with nothing much to do, except listen to adults talk, will do that to you! I talked to Sara at bedtime. She said she liked Susan. I told her that if she felt nervous about anything or had questions that she could talk to me about it anytime.
- The beauty of this assessment, as Susan explained, is that it really doesn't "matter" what or how Sara does with the activities and testing. She doesn't have to get everything right or meet certain goals. Susan just needs to find out how Sara learns and where the glitches are. Then, Susan shared that there are really two ways to deal with those glitches. You can either find a way to detour around a learning problem and get at it another way, or once you know what the difficulty is, you will know how to fix it altogether in some cases. She said there is rarely something that comes up that you would just throw your hands up and say, "Oh my, there's nothing we can do about this - we're just going to have to live with it!"
- Today, I'm so excited to start! Last night, the stress of the day, got the better of all of us. Sara had a meltdown at suppertime. In the midst of trying to resolve that, Joshua and I ended up at each other's throat's (I know this NEVER happens at your house!), so the rest of the evening was rather tense. I woke up feeling terrible. I finally let the tears come - the kind that almost make you throw up... After venting to my dear friend, Karen, on the phone, I feel much better! Thanks Karen, for listening!

I want to thank each one of you, again, for the incredible prayer partners and support you have been to me (us). For those of you on Facebook, who have sent me long messages, thank you! I will reply to each one of you, but it's going to take me awhile to get to all of them. I have been so encouraged and I feel very loved by each one of you who have taken the time to read my epic posts and even care about them!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Big Day

Today is the big day for our family - especially Sara. I don't really know if she's nervous or not. She doesn't verbalize those kinds of feelings to me very well. She did wake up a bit too early and has been VERY cranky, so that's usually a sign that she's feeling anxious. Please keep her in your prayers today. Our appointment to meet the family doctor is at 1:40 p.m. This should be pretty low key, as this appointment is only to meet our family and gather family history. I'm hoping to cram as much in as possible, but I think the main discussion concerning autism, will have to wait until the next appointment.

At 4 p.m. we will have our initial interview with Susan Peacock about the learning assessment. Again, this should be pretty relaxed, but new situations can be stressful and intimidating to Sara. Joshua will be joining us for this appointment, so I'm glad for that! Please pray that we will have to wisdom to share exactly what Susan needs to learn about Sara before continuing with the one-on-one assessment. I tend to get bogged down with too much detail and sharing instead of sticking to what's really necessary! I'm confident this will be a good meeting. The only thing I'm nervous about right now, is finding my way to Susan's office! Edmonton is still a big, new city to me and I get so scared trying to find new places!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Aloha Friday #16

It's Aloha Friday! As a reminder, Aloha Friday is a blogging tradition that originally started with Kailani over on An Island Life. I ask you a simple question, and you answer! It's a great way to interact with family and friends and to meet new bloggy friends along the way! To participate, just head over to Kailani's blog and follow the instructions. do not have to link up to answer the question!

This week's question comes from my husband. I was feeling lazy last night and asked him what my Aloha Friday question should be! Here's what he came up with:

If you were a fruit, which fruit would you be?

After he said that, I moaned, "Then I have to answer that question!" He said I was a strawberry. I could agree with that! Small, bright and colourful - but sometimes a bit tart when you bite into it... Yep, that pretty much describes me! Now it's your turn! I can hardly wait to hear these today!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Happy News!

Yesterday morning I called the lady who was recommended to us for Sara's academic assessment. Her name is Susan Peacock, so I will refer to her as Susan, rather than "the lady" from now on! I had learned of Susan last Monday, but fear held me back from calling her right away. I was afraid I would get my hopes up, and then she would tell me that she was all booked up for the summer or that Sara was too young... Then, Joshua asked me a few days ago if I'd called her yet. I said no, but I would. I tried to find Susan in the phonebook and there were too many choices. So, I e-mailed my friend who recommended Susan and asked for her number. She e-mailed back right away. I called Susan yesterday morning and left a message, not really expecting to hear back very soon. I was actually surprised when I answered the phone right after lunch and Susan identified herself as the caller! I knew as soon as we started talking that she was going to be the perfect fit for our family! I felt very comfortable talking to her and she immediately put some of my fears to rest. She didn't tell me I was overly concerned and should "wait it out" some more. She didn't tell me Sara was too young. She did tell me she had appointments available next week! It was all I could do to keep from squealing with excitement! Then, when I got off the phone I cried tears of joy! After working things out with Joshua's schedule at work, we settled on Monday at 4 p.m. We will all go together as a family. It really couldn't come much sooner than that! I also have the appointment with the family doctor at 1:40 p.m. that afternoon, so it will be a busy day for us. This initial time with Susan is just for Joshua and I to tell her as much about Sara as possible. Then, there will be three or four, 2 hour sessions where Susan will work one on one with Sara. Susan said she keeps it as casual and fun as possible. Just from talking on the phone I think Sara will really like Susan. I even asked how she would recommend that I present this whole thing to Sara. She said to put it all on myself, telling Sara that I need to learn how to teach her the best way. She said to let Sara know that she (Susan) will help us so that school will be much easier from now on. When I told Sara about meeting Susan, she seemed a bit nervous, but she agreed with me that she would like school to be easier. Every day is a struggle around here. So many times, when I tell Sara it's time to read or do Math, I see the panic and fear in her eyes. She never tells me she's afraid - she just acts out by stalling (I'm thirsty, I'm hungry, I have to pee...) or arguing or crying or just outright saying, "No." Then, I have to discipline for the bad attitude, but I think sometimes Sara starts to associate school "performance" with getting disciplined. I try to tell her that I'm not mad at her because she makes mistakes or because something is hard. I just need her to learn that a bad attitude is not acceptable. Some days I can do and say all of that very patiently, but as you can imagine, some days we are just both screaming and crying together. "Oh, Lord, please let Susan be the one to help take away much of this heartache."

I want to thank all of you, my dear friends, for your outpouring of love, prayers and support during this time. I have been so blessed by all the words of love and encouragement. I have always found writing to be very therapeutic for me. It helps me to organize and clarify my thoughts. It's one of the easiest ways for me to express myself. I may share more detail than you are sometimes interested in, but it sure helps me to write it all out!
Thanks for reading and listening.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Explaining the ache in my heart - the weight on my shoulders...

This post comes with a warning. I am going to be very real and honest about some things going on in my life. If you want a barrel of sunshine, go read someone else's post today...

My heart has been overwhelmed lately with some things concerning our little princess...Sara. I've hesitated to share anything because I don't officially "know" anything yet. So, as you read, please know that I am not trying to be overly dramatic or state anything as "fact."

I've shared before that Sara has had her struggles with s
chool since she started Grade 1. Basically, those struggles seem to have worsened, especially in the area of Math. We had our end-of-the-year visit with our facilitator last Monday (June 8) and it proved to be a very difficult time. Our facilitator informed us that Sara is a full year behind, and maybe more in certain subjects. That was a surprise to me. And an even bigger and more upsetting surprise to Joshua. We knew things didn't come easily to her, but not that she would be considered that behind. Sara should be starting Grade 3 in the fall, but has really only completed Grade 1 material. Now, here's where I know people have many differing opinions. Joshua and I happen to be of two very different opinions. We're talking through a lot of things and researching a lot of things right now. I know that many of you who are reading this will want to say to me that, "It doesn't matter where Sara is academically - after all, isn't that the beauty of homeshooling?" Or, "Who cares is she's behind? My child is behind too. Sara will eventually catch up. Don't panic." Those things that I just said, are basically MY opinion of everything. I said basically, because there are some more things I will get to later in this post. The issue is, Joshua is of an entirely different mind set. Academic success is very important to him. He will move mountains to "fix" this "problem" with Sara. It is NOT O.K. with him that Sara is not at grade level. While I know that many of you will not agree with this or will even frown upon such ideas, I am the one who has to live in harmony with my husband. I have to listen to his opinions and concerns and do my best to accommodate those things. I still have to honour him and the way he "ticks." I do respect my husband and I'm confident the Lord will show us how to agree together. In the meantime, I am not asking for advice. Just prayer and support, as we work through all of this. This all weighs very heavily on me. It is not fun to be on a different page than your spouse - ever - but, this is a big one. When we chose to homeschool, we took the full weight of responsibility in regards to our children's education. It is a BIG responsibility at any time, but when there are extra challenges, it seems so very heavy. Some people may think or say, "What, are you crazy?! If it's so hard, why don't you send her to school? Why do you do this to yourself?" I am fully committed to homeschooling my children and it would take a very special set of circumstances to make me change my mind. I firmly believe in homeschooling for our children and I will do anything within my power to continue to do so. I will explain what that will look like for this next year at the end of this post.

The other biggie that has come up lately is something that may surprise many of you. Again, I am not asking for advice. This is an even harder one to explain...but, we are in the process of figuring out whether or not Sara is somewhere on th
e autism spectrum. Yes, I'm serious and no, I'm not crazy! I've been letting people tell me for about 4-5 years now that I'm too paranoid or overly concerned, etc. It was always deny, deny, deny. Push down the feelings, and try to pretend that everything was normal. Well, I'm totally done with that. Can you sense the emotions as I'm typing? I never knew what could possibly be different about Sara, but I knew in my gut that I wasn't crazy. As you all know, this recent move to St. Albert has been very difficult for me. I did NOT want to move here. But, I'm beginning to see why the Lord has us here now. He has placed several wonderful, Christian, homeschooling moms into my life who have given me soooo much insight about Sara. I won't mention names due to the sensitive nature to their own situations. One mom, whose daughter has become our new favourite babysitter, has a son who they believe to be somwhere on the autism spectrum. Because we live 5 minutes from each other and her daughter babysits for us often, we've gotten to know each other quite a bit. I gradually began to share some of my struggles with her. As she observed and spent time with our family, she told me that Sara reminded her so much of her son when he was younger. I have gleaned a lot of wisdom from her, asking her so many questions about behaviours, schooling, etc. As our relationship progressed, she encouraged me to Google "autism spectrum" in my search to find help for Sara. I will never forget the day I began to read the articles I found on-line. It was the first time I felt like something made sense. The puzzle pieces of Sara's life finally seemed to fit together and so many things became easier for Joshua and I to understand. Because I don't know anything officially, I hesitate to share specific things. This whole autism thing is somewhat tied to the academic learning struggles, but is more a separate issue. If you look at a list of autism spectrum symptoms, Sara fits a lot of the social issues to some degree or another. If I were to be specific, it may just be confusing to those who aren't familiar with autism. I have also talked extensively with a friend I have known for years who worked with and diagnosed autistic kids for 10 years. She is home now with her own children, but autistic children are still very close to her heart. She has been able to give me specific advice to the province of Alberta and the process we need to go through for a diagnosis. She has confirmed that, although Sara is very high functioning, there are some definite red flags and she has encouraged us to pursue some answers. So, the first step is to get in with a family doctor and explain our situation. We have an appointment with a doctor (which was an answer to prayer just for that) on Monday, June 22. Hopefully, she will give me the referral to a pediatrician I'm looking for. The pediatrician is the one who would make the diagnosis and then refer us to any specialists we might need.

As far as Sara's learning disabilities and struggles, we are planning to have her assessed this summer. Another homeshcool friend/mom has recommended a lady to us, who was very helpful to their family in the assessment of their son recently. I am currently trying to get into contact with her. We hope to get some answers with this lady by the end of the summer. With that information, we plan to homeschool Sara for at least one more year. After that, we will re-evaluate. While I do not believe my child needs to be the next Math whiz or super reader, there is obviously something that she is not "getting." This is why were are taking steps to have Sara assessed and evaluated. I don't think that she needs to be "fixed." I love her the way she is. But, I do think that I need to be more equipped and informed as I am teaching her everyday. I need to know how to help her learn more effectively. We need to reduce frustrations and stress levels around here. Sara needs to have more confidence and less fear as she learns. I want to do everything possible to make those things happen in our home.

Right now, we are just playing the waiting game. It's so hard to wait when you want answers right away. I guess my thoughts and emotions get the better of me some days. Trying to teach and mother and love a child with learning disabilities and autism all wrapped up into one, is so very hard some days. It just really sucks some days. I am exhausted some days. That's where I am right now. My friend who worked with the autistic kids told me that parents of "spectrum kids" go through a grieving process that has many different stages. I'm kind of dealing with the initial yucky stages of everything right now. It is hard for me to talk about all of this, and yet, a relief at the same time. I tried to make as much sense as possible, but forgive me if I just rambled around. I will keep you posted as we walk this journey.
"For you formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother's womb.
I will praise you You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well."
Psalm 139:13,14

Friday, June 5, 2009

Aloha Friday #15

It's Aloha Friday! I've been rather sporadic lately, but I'm always back for more! As a reminder, Aloha Friday is a blogging tradition that originally started with Kailani over on An Island Life. I ask you a simple question, and you answer! It's a great way to interact with family and friends and to meet new bloggy friends along the way! To participate, just head over to Kailani's blog and follow the instructions. do not have to link up to answer the question!

This week's question:

What is your favourite flower and/or shrub in your garden?

We have moved a lot (8 times in 9 years of marriage), so things are constantly changing in my yard and garden! There are two things t
hat I always like to have blooming in whatever space I may have - pansies and lilacs! I'm excited to have both this year and I'm loving it! I didn't think I had a lilac in my new yard, but discovered it a few weeks ago, kind of tucked behind our big spruce tree! Here a few pics. It's cloudy today, so they're not the greatest, but the flowers are still beautiful.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Come one, come all...I'm giving something away!!

I wanted to have a giveaway every month this year, but alas, I have fallen behind a few months... Today is the day I'm getting back on track! Maybe I'll do 2 giveaways this month?? We'll see!

Here is my June giveaway. A CD by Jon Bauer titled "Giver of Grace." Jon Bauer is actually a member of the church we attend and makes his home here in St. Albert. He travels all over Canada doing concerts, but when he's home, we are privileged to have Jon lead worship for our church on Sunday morning! This CD is a recording that Jon did with some of the children at our church. When he released the CD, he and the kids did all the songs on a Sunday morning and that was church that week! It was really a special time! We have all of Jon's CD's, but this one is the definite favourite around here! It's Sara's top pick, for sure. When she wants to listen to music, this is the first one she puts in the CD player. It was her first choice of CD's to be loaded onto her MP3 player that she recently got! Some of the songs are familiar worship songs, and others are ones that Jon Bauer wrote himself. This is one CD that appeals to both kids and adults, so you won't mind listening to this in the car with the whole family! If you want to check out Jon Bauer's website, click here.

If you would like a chance to have this CD, leave me a comment and tell me what your favourite summertime activity is! I will make the draw on June 14th! Ready, Set, GO!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It's Only Been 7 Months...

Yesterday I got a haircut for the first time in 7 months! I've never been one for getting my hair cut on a consistent basis, but I think this is a new record for me! Since it's such a momentous occasion, I thought you might like to see pictures.

Here I am, squinting in the sun. Joshua likes the sexy little flip over my eye, but it's driving me crazy! I think I got about 4 inches off. It feels great!

This is the way I'll be wearing it around the house until the little flip grows out a bit!This week is official haircut week because the kids got theirs done on Monday! They love going to Beaner's, a kids hair "salon" here. It's a really fun place, complete with T.V.'s playing cartoons at every chair, a ball pit, and free lollipops! Sara got blue "hair" braided into her hair, so she's having fun showing that off. Here's a pic...