Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dear World,

I am writing this to clear up a few things.

My son is a remarkable, bright and gifted young man. He has triumphed over more things in his short life than the majority of the people I know ever will. We made the decision to send him to his new school this year because it was the best place for him.

My son has learning differences that made teaching him in a typical learning environment a challenge. He had some good teachers who went above and beyond at his public school. He had others that shoved him to the side and fed him answers to make it look like he was learning and improve their test scores. Because of these teachers, my son began to believe he was dumb.

He deserved better than that.

His new school is designed to teach kids just like my son. Kids who are smart, but learn differently and therefore can't learn in their public school. In fact, you have to be smart to get into this school. They don't take kids who can't be taught. They take kids who are "unteachable" by public education standards.

At my son's school, he is learning that he is smart. He is doing at least grade level work in most subjects and quickly catching up in those his isn't. He isn't the different one in the class, he's the norm. He is making friends, playing sports and loving life. He is happy.

So, World, when you stop and ask me about my son or his school, please do not think that he is "dumb" or "severe" or "slow." Do not patronize me because you feel bad that my son can't go to school with his neighborhood friends. Do not think of him as anything other than what he is, amazing.

Sincerely,
His very proud mom


PS - I'll blog about Thanksgiving later. I just had to get that off my chest.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Squirrel Boy

For years we have thought Jason was part-squirrel. He scurries around, picks things up to store away and has about the same attention span. He shoots up trees and is hyperaware of all around him. Also, he LOVES to point them out to us. Seriously, mid-sentence exclamations of "SQUIRREL!!" are very common here.

Well last night, while looking for something in Jason's room, we came across this:



Did I mention he collects acorns?

And, apparently, he can open them as well.

Craziness.

The doctors may call it ADHD, Autism and the like. But around here we know the truth.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Adoption Myth

The world would like to think that when you adopt a child you press a reset button on their life and all that happened before will be forgotten.

This is so not the case.

If you think about your own life and how it's shaped who your are, you know that it's all a culmination of what your life was like before. Yet society expects children to forget about their lives before their adoption. "But he's so much better off" or "How can he possibly love those people" or "Why would he want to remember that" and so on.

I can't tell you how many people ask me if Jason ever talks about his life before us. If he ever mentions his brother, foster family or birth-mom. And when I say yes, we talk about them a lot actually, I get some very shocked looks. Yes, he was only 4 at the time, but those 4 years are pretty powerful. More happened in his first 4 years than happens in most adults first 20. He can't forget them or bury them and to do so would be dishonoring Jason and his past. And expecting him to would be telling him that we only love part of him, not all of him.

All of the experiences a person goes through in their life, whether young or old, shapes how we see the world, interact with it and cope with what life hands us. The same is true with children who are adopted. And to expect different if to say your life didn't matter before your life here started.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dad!


Today is my Dad's birthday.

I don't think I can say how old he is since we weren't even allowed to celebrate last year when he hit a certain milestone.

Still, it's his birthday and to celebrate we're giving him and my mom our 3 rambunctious kids for an overnight.

I know, not quite the celebration you would imagine, but my Dad has always been the type of guy who would do unto others before he would himself.

Eleven years ago, my Dad was having another birthday and this one was another of those milestones and he didn't mind celebrating it. And he did, only he did it at our rehearsal dinner.

You see in our quest to finds a date and a church that didn't fall on an OSU football Saturday, we picked November 20. One day after my Dad's birthday. Only it was March and we didn't put 2 and 2 together. And he never said a word.

It wasn't until much later that I realized what we had done. He said he didn't mind, he just wanted us to have our big day and so on. I minded though. It was much to late to move everything so we ordered a cake and surprised him with a party at our rehearsal dinner. He was surprised and thankfully I now will always remember his birthday.

Which leads us back to tonight and me dumping the kids with him.

Our anniversary is tomorrow. 11 years.

Getting out to celebrate has always been hard for us since we had kids. My parents are really our only sitters and I know we're lucky because many special needs parents don't have anyone. My parents friends are taking my Dad out to eat Saturday night, so they gave us tonight.

My Dad was always the type of dad who put his kids first. It's probably why I married Andy because he's the same way.

Tonight, my Dad will watch hours of Scooby-Doo, listen to countless squeals and see his orderly home slowly come undone. He won't mind though. He never does. Even on his birthday.

So, happy birthday, Dad. I love you.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Massive Update

I've been away for over 9 months now. A lot has been happening in our family. I thought it might be a good idea to bring everything up-to-date before I plow forward.

Micah is still doing well. He played soccer in the spring and spent most of the summer swimming. He's really making great progress in OT and we're seeing his start to eat more and more. In fact, a few weeks ago Micah finally allowed food to touch and ate his first ever peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Since then, he's eaten one nearly every day.

Hannah finished up preschool and plowed right on into full-day kindergarten this fall. She's still dancing and playing soccer. She's also reading and writing up a storm. One of our biggest challenges is that because everything comes so easily to Hannah, she thinks she can do everything without us. It's hard to keep her challenged and grounded at the same time.

Jason finished up his year at public school hoping he was going to a new school. After his last day though, we got a call from our first choice school and found out that Jason got IN! This was the school we really wanted him in and what a difference it has made. My son is confident, learning better social skills and behaviors and has mad amazing progress academically. He reads constantly and his writing is getting so much better. He played flag football with them this fall which was awesome. Jason hasn't been able to do a true team sport in years.

Andy had back surgery a month after I last posted. They fused his S1/L5/L4. Four days in the hospital and 3 and 1/2 months off work. He's feeling 100% better since his surgery and is so much happier. He's looking to finish school soon so he's researching masters programs.

As for me, I pretty much took care of everyone. The kids, my husband and sometimes my parents. My life changed a lot when Michael died and then even more as the summer progressed. I learned a lot about myself and am mostly just putting my all into my job...mom.

It's been a while...

..since I last posted. I could blame it on being busy or not having time to write. But the truth is that I had so much to say that I couldn't get my thoughts together. It's still a bit like that, but I realize that writing is something I love and even as busy as my life is, I have lots to say.

I want talk about raising special needs kids. I want to talk about raising a gifted one. I have stuff to say about suicide and mental illness and what it's like to have those things as a part of your life. I want to tell the world about how God saw me through that last 10 years and how I know He'll see me through the next. I have stuff to say and this is where I want to say it.

I'm back.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ramblings

I've been staring at this blinking cursor for a few minutes now trying to get the jumbled thoughts in my head straightened out. I just can't seem to though. I think that is part of my problem right now. My brain won't shut off and I can't seem to organize my thoughts unless I have a specific task to do.

Get Jason off to school. Check.

Feed Hannah and Micah. Check.

Wander the house aimlessly and talk of the phone with nothing to say...got that one down, too.

I told my friend, Jenny, that this feels like when I'm getting depressed and my medication needs adjusting. Only it doesn't need adjusting because this is real sadness, not one brought on by a chemical imbalance. And I am so very sad. Even though Mike wasn't part of my everyday life, he was part of my everyday thoughts and prayers. He is still, only now filled with regrets and sorrow.

I wish I had called. What if I had. Why didn't I. These thoughts jumble in my mind and tear me up. Nothing will bring him back. I know this. I have peace in Christ as to what happened and why and where he is now. But I still live in this fallen world and my mind keeps trying to make sense of it.

I'm not sleeping either. I know this is also normal, but it makes it even harder to function. We've also had at least one child up at night for the last month which isn't helping either. Micah and Hannah are having nightmares. Jason is too, only he isn't crawling in bed with us at 3am. I haven't been this sleep deprived since we had a newborn in the house.

I am searching for a counselor now. These last few weeks has stirred up so much in me that I know I need to get it out. Mike had been on me about doing this, but I kept putting it off. He knew it was important which is why he was seeing one as well. He'd be telling me it's about time if he was here to tell.

Micah is turning 4 two weeks from tomorrow. He wants a Star Wars party. He'll get one, too. It's just hard to fathom that Mike is going to not be there especially since he loved Star Wars so much. It will be hard to celebrate when someone is missing. But we will. Because Micah will demand it. "A cake and a party and presents, Mommy!" He's so full of joy at turning 4. My kids are a constant reminder of how life moves forward even when it feels like it's stopped.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

And the world keeps turning...

Last week my world ground to a sudden and tragic halt.

This week it's starting to move again.

Regardless of my grief and everything we are dealing with now, the school year keeps moving forward. I had to reschedule a bunch of school appointments and they started again yesterday.

Jason did his pre-admission testing for the new school yesterday. It was mainly to see where he was with his language skills and see where some of his learning issues are. I think it went well, but it's so hard to know for sure.

I really liked being at the school and seeing the interactions between the staff and the kids. You can really tell a lot about a school that way. The school is putting on a play and I was able to listen to them rehearse The teachers were all excited and happy and there were still a fair number of kids there. Everyone was friendly and happy to be doing what ever it was they were doing.

So now we wait. The school is heading to spring break next week so I don't expect the admissions committee to meet until after. But at this point, we are done jumping through hoops (I hope) and just need to be patient.

My brother was really excited that we found this school for Jason and wanted him to get in. I wanted to call him last night and tell him. I couldn't though, but I know he knew.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Moving forward


It's been a week now. Yesterday actually.
Everyone's gone home, back to their lives, back to their families. The world keeps spinning, but for us it still seems to stand still.
My kids are back in school, but where before I would run errands and do all those mom things I do. Now I get ready and head to my parents to help with, well, everything. We are 7 where we once were 8. There is a hole and although we rest in the arms of God through all of this, the pain still hurts.
Last week, I was the strong one. This week I find myself falling apart as soon as I finish my tasks for the day. Last night I sobbed through dinner and afterwards and sobbed some more when we brought the kids home to get ready for bed. I'll probably do the same today.
Yesterday, my parents took his cats to the vet and had them checked out. Today we are hoping they come out of his old room.
I know I have to keep moving forward and I know I will. But I'm also struggling with the day to day. I find myself hugging my kids more and reminding them how precious they are to each other.
Watching their grief has been hard. It's so very real to them, but children process it differently. Micah is in denial that Uncle Mike was his uncle. He will say he was my brother and his siblings uncle, but he keep saying, "My uncle did NOT die." I worry that someday the only memory he will hold is pictures and stories we tell.
Hannah has shut herself up a bit. She talks about it with us, but is mostly just sad and wants to cuddle with everyone. My little girl who was working so hard to be independent last week, his constantly sitting on laps and holding hands.
Jason's grief has been the hardest to watch. He's older and so we were honest about the circumstances of his death. He also asked us point blank about some particulars I hadn't wanted to share, but he demanded that truth. Those are hard conversations to have with a 10 year old. But they are necessary one. I learned of my uncle's suicide at his funeral by over hearing conversations. I didn't want that for him.
Today is another day in my new world. I know I will get through it. I know God is carrying us all. But it's strange. I'm living in a world without my Michael.
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Michael

33 years ago, my very pregnant mother asked me if I wanted a baby brother or sister. I remember clearly telling her I wanted a little brother. Later, I joke it was because I didn't want to share my toys, but the truth was that I really wanted a brother to play with. And that's what I got. A little brother who would become my friend and ally growing up.

Michael was a wicked smart and funny man. He was generous with his time and his love. He loved his family and friends greatly, and often gave much of himself to help them. He also struggled, much like I do, with depression. It was something he was open with and his support system at home often cared for him and checked in on him during the harder times. This last 6 months were hard though. He struggled with his medication and had been on 4 different ones in 6 months. Last week, his doctor doubled his dose on the latest one he was trying. Six days later, my baby brother did something I could never imagine him doing and took his own life.

I know that it wasn't my brother who did it, but rather someone suffering from a massive chemical imbalance which separated perception from reality in his mind. We believe the downhill spiral took less than 48 hours to complete itself. Then it was over and his suffering ended.

Yesterday over 200 people came out in love, support and remembrance. We shared in our tears and our laughter as we remembered Mike. I think my brother appreciated the service we planned. One including gathering music of Weezer, Tom Petty and Queen and slide show of his life put to the music of Weird Al.

I know that someday I will see my brother again. I know that he will watch my kids grown up from heaven and watch over them. I know that with Christ, I can get through this.

But I also know that my heart is broken, that my children are crying and that my life here on earth will never be the same again.

Michael, I love you and I miss you. I'll see you again someday and when I do, know that I am not angry, I am just sad it ended too soon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Brother

Right now it is just too difficult to write about what happened. I loved my brother and miss him with my whole heart.



Michael Carter, 33, of Toledo, and formerly of Worthington, passed away Monday, March 8, 2010. Mike was born January 25, 1977 in Columbus to Ben and Elaine (Newman) Carter. He was a 1995 graduate of Thomas Worthington High School and a graduate of Bowling Green University. For the past 10 years, Mike has been working as a Market Research Analyst for TNS in Toledo. Mike was known for his quick wit and sarcasm. He had many close friends with whom he would do anything for, and especially enjoyed spending time with his niece, nephews and friend's children. He was very caring and loving, and his generosity and big heart will always be cherished by those closest to him. Mike enjoyed playing video games with his friends, collecting comic books and action figures, and was an avid Star Wars and Boston Red Sox fan. Preceded in death by his paternal grandparents LaVerne and Ben Edwards and uncle Herbert Mullins. Michael will be missed by his parents, Elaine and Ben Carter, Jr.; sister, Jennifer (Andy) Fenner; maternal grandmother, Iris Newman; niece and nephews, Jason, Micah, and Hannah Fenner; numerous aunt, uncles, and cousins, and his cats, Hammy and Boo. A Celebration of Michael's Life will be 2 p.m. Saturday, March 13, 2010 at Sawmill Covenant Church, 8794 Big Bear Ave., in Powell, OH. Private burial at a later date in Kingwood Memorial Park. Contributions may be made in Mike's memory to Ohio's Suicide Prevention Foundation, 325 Stillman Hall, 1947 College Rd., Columbus, OH, 43210. Arrangements entrusted to SCHOEDINGER WORTHINGTON CHAPEL, (614) 848-6699. To view Mike's video tribute or offer condolences, visit www.schoedinger.com.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Perfect Storm

Sometimes, when your kid has a bad day you can go back and analyze it and figure out all the places things went wrong that cause the problem.

Well, yesterday we experienced a perfect storm, Jason-style.

Because Micah is sick and Hannah is recovering, I made arrangements for Jason to walk home with the daughters of our friends. Jason has walked with them in the past on occasion and while it isn't the best situation, it works most of the time. In fact, we walked friday of last week without a single problem.

Although yesterday the fourth grade celebrated Ohio's birthday by eating lots and lots of Ohio made food. All of it contained processed sugars and chemicals. Stuff we don't feed Jason. Stuff his brain reacts, um, poorly too. In my defense, I misread the sheet and thought the party was Friday. Still, it was not a good thing for Jason.

Add to the food, changing Jason's routine. Although he is a normally flexible enough guy to handle this, routine changes do increase his anxiety.

And then, as they walked away from the school, someone hit him with a snowball. A kid who has been unkind to Jason in the past. A kid Jason who bullies him.

Jason yelled in anger and went after the kid. His friend tried to stop him by grabbing his coat, thus causing Jason to feel like he was choking. This was bad. Unbeknownst to the girl, this is a HUGE PTSD trigger for Jason. What followed was not pretty.

For the remainder of the 25 minute walk home, Jason yelled, pushed, tackled and threw snow at every kid he felt was bullying him or had in the past. The boys also yelled, pushed, tackled and threw snow at him. It appears that while Jason was the first to make thing physical, the other boys certainly played their part. It was not a good thing.

Also, remember how I talked about Jason's Autism and his inability to read situations or respond to them. Jason was yelling things that didn't even make sense, things he had heard on TV, making it funnier for the kids going after him.

When Jason did get home, I could tell something was up, but it took quite a while to decode it and get to the bottom of everything. His PTSD reaction means he only has vague images and recollections of what occurred after the coat was pulled. Of course, we were upset because he knows not to fight like that. But once we pieced everything together, we began to see things in a bit differently. In fact, it was this morning when clarity set in, that I realized while my son's response was wrong, the situation with the school has reached ridiculous proportions.

So, I started making phone calls and writing emails. I became Super Activist Mom and spent the majority of the day with a phone on my ear and a keyboard under my fingers.

I heard back from the school we are considering to learn that Jason made it to the final phase of the selection process and we should have a decision after they complete some testing and meet with the committee.

I spoke with two more Autism specific programs in town and have appointments made to tour their schools and meet with the administration.

I requested a revision on his ETR to qualify him under Autism instead of OHI so we can access more services.

I am asking that transportation be added to his IEP because he cannot travel to and from school safely like his peers.

There is a lot still pending and a lot of decisions to be made in the coming month, but at least now we have a plan.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Another tooth?

Hannah's due diligence at wiggling has paid off. This afternoon the last of her loose teeth fell out, leaving her with an adorable gap toothed smile. I just can't beleive that my baby girl is growing up so fast.
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Calling Dr. Mom


I though you would all enjoy a look at what my life looks like at bed time. All of these (except for the vitamins) are repeated at various points throughout the day and night. Modern medicine is a great thing, but a bit scary at times as well.
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Friday, February 26, 2010

A Tale of Three Children


Hannah's surgery went very well. Despite her fears, she was a real trooper through it all. In fact, when she woke up she didn't cry and simply went back to wiggling her tooth. So fervently that it ended up falling right out. Her look of delayed surprise was priceless. And I do mean delayed because the reason she felt so good was all the stuff they pumped in her. It took her a couple seconds to realized what she had done.

She's resting right now on the sofa, surrounded by all her favorite things, watching a movie, sipping on juice and eating goldfish. She's happy as a clam.

That is not the case with Micah who woke up this morning after a very bad night's sleep. He'd spiked a fever of 102 and was completely lethargic. So, Andy took him to the pediatricians (Love you Dr. Anne!) who quickly diagnosed him as having pneumonia and strep throat. Poor kids feels horrible and looks even worse.

He's also on the couch, though not nearly as happy as Hannah. We're struggling to get his body to stop coughing enough that he can rest and his fever isn't really coming down very well. We're hoping the antibiotics kick in soon because this is a little scary.

Micah was supposed to sleep over at grandma's tonight and then head to Disney on Ice in the morning. Obviously he can't go and given the complete lack of attention Jason is going to get here, we shipped him off to grandma's instead. he's under strict instructions to have fun, but to not share the fun with his siblings. Too high a risk of weeping and gnashing of teeth with that one.

So, here we are with one recovering kid, one sick kid and one missing kid. It's likely to be a very long weekend with lots of runs to the store, drink refills and very little sleep for the adults. Wasn't this supposed to get easier as they got older?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tonsils and Schools and Chores, Oh My!

Our lives are just plain busy. Next week is March, bringing with it Andy's birthday which means Micah's is close behind. I still need to rotate the 2 bedrooms which including painting them both. Our Dave Ramsey class is continuing to go well, but it's a LOT of work right now. Laundry is piling up and really need to find the surface of my desk again. Needless to say, I've been struggling to find time to blog.

Jason had his full day trial at the new school on Tuesday. He said it went well and he really, really liked it. I hear a lot about the kids, the gecko and the gym. I also heard a little about the classes, but, well, he's a 10yo boy and felt he had already covered everything that was important.

The admissions director gave me good feedback when I picked him up, but nothing concrete yet about if he gets in yet or not. She is supposed to call me sometime later today or tomorrow and let me know if we move forward to the testing phase, so I am a nervous wreck every time the phone rings. Still, we are moving closer and closer to the end of the process and with each step I am holding a bit more hope.

Hannah tonsils will be exiting stage right tomorrow. It's a much needed and long awaited surgery that has my little girl all tied up in knots. She was just fine this morning until she realized that tomorrow is the day. I know she's afraid of the pain so we bought a bunch of popsicles, puddings and ice cream to soothe her throat afterwards. I have a feeling she'll be just fine and going stir crazy in a few days. Still, it's going to be a long day tomorrow with lots of tears from us both. I'll post an update tomorrow afternoon when it's over.

Our class has showed us how important it os for our kids to learn how to handle money now rather than in the future like us, so taking some ideas from Dave Ramsey, we started the kids on a chore chart. Lots of basic stuff them need to do and a bunch of stuff they can get paid to do. then we help them divide it each week into Spend, Save and Give envelopes. Hannah is taking to this with gusto, counting off her checkmarks and looking for more to do at every turn. Micah is enjoying it, but he has the attention span of a gnat, so we might get half the bed made before he wanders away. Although on payday he certainly is engaged because he likes his "monies."

Jason is the one who is driving me to distraction with his chores. He's decided that half done is good enough. Um, sorry. NO. Then I just make you redo it and take away some privileges. I've also started offering up his pay chores to his brother and sister which he doesn't seem to mind right now. Of course, that may change when he realizes I was serious about him paying them for doing the chore.

Oh, and things are moving forward on the adoption front. We decided to pursue adoption from the foster care system. It will be like it was with Jason, a straight adoption without being foster parents. We were thinking about that but decided that the cost to our kids was too high right now. Surprisingly, I haven't had much flack outside of the training department at our county about the age range we are looking at. Because we will not adopt out of birth order, we need to find a child 3 or under. A couple people I have spoken with have been very encouraging. I think us being experienced adoptive parents makes a big difference. We know more of what to expect from a child in care and how to deal with the long term ramifications of drug and alcohol exposures, abuse and neglect. So, training starts in July and depending on the back log, we will hopefully be licensed by Christmas.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Brief Education on My Son's Autism


Autism Spectrum Disorder encompasses a wide range of disorders and diagnoses, each with varying severity, including Autistic disorder ("classic" autism), Aspergers Syndrome, and Pervasive Development Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified, or PDD-NOS. This means that you can have kids who are both extremely severe or really mild with the same diagnosis. Jason's actual diagnosis is Pervasive Development Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified. What does that mean? Let me tell you.
In Jason's case, he has a complete disconnect socially. While he wants friends, he can't read facial expression or tone. Sarcasm is completely lost on him and he cannot distinguish the nuances of relationships or conversation. He may jump into a conversation at an inappropriate point, say something completely unrelated or take a joke too far. He's also quite literal with what he hears so when you say to him angrily, "I dare you to do that again!" he will. He fidgits and touches things and doesn't always have the best personal space awareness.
Because of all of this, he doesn't relate well with his peers or older kids. At this point, kids younger by a few years seem to be okay with him. I think they have more social tolerance at this age and as they are still learning the social rules themselves and are just less into talking and more into playing. Jason's peers aren't so understanding. Because he looks normal, they expect him to act normal. And if they have known him more than a year or two, they are even less understanding because he used to be normal. He wasn't. He just wasn't abnormal enough to be diagnosed.
Jason's reaching an age where kids have a greater understanding of their place in society and how they want to be perceived and so far, most don't want to be perceived at being his friend. This hurts Jason a lot. A common misconception is that Autistic kids can't feel emotions, but the truth is that they feel them quite deeply. He doesn't understand why the kid who played catch with him at baseball practice ignores him and laughs at him at school. He doesn't get why he's told he can't sit down with a kid at lunch. And he really doesn't understand why no one wants to play with him even in his own neighborhood.
Differences like these make it very easy for Jason, and others like him, to be picked on or bullied by people who are uninformed or uneducated about Autism or similar disorders. The fact that he doesn't always know or understand when he's being picked on often will make him a perpetual target.
So, here is my request. I know there are a few people who read this who have kids who know Jason from school or church. And if you don't, but know someone who does, please feel free to forward this on. I don't want people to force their kids to be his friend. I would simply like that if you have a child who knows my son that you take a moment to educate them a little on these differences to make Jason's next contact with them a positive one. I think that most kids just don't know what to make of him and without meaning to, hurt his feelings. I'm praying that a little bit of education can go a long way.
Thank you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Forgiveness

Every time I think I have a handle on my feelings about what happened to Jason before he came home to me, something comes out of the blue and bites me.

Over the years, I've come to terms with Jason's birth mom and her choices. They were not choices I would make, but I also understand better now how someone in her circumstance with her background could have ended up in the situation she did. I do not believe she every meant any malice or harm for Jason. It was, sadly, more a lack of education and ability. I've cried many a tear thinking about how the choices she made and the pain she might be feeling over his loss.

It's his foster family that I haven't come to grips with yet. And last night, while looking at the Facebook page for our county agency, I ran across Jason's foster mother.

Without going into detail, lets just say that for at least the bulk of Jason's time in their home, that Jason was little more than a mouth to feed with a paycheck. Harsh, I know, but I have tons of assessments, teacher's notes and doctor's examines that point many of Jason's struggles to "gross environmental neglect." At 4, he spoke fewer than 50 words, had one 3 word sentence ("Pick up me") and was so emotionally shut down that he left the only home he had ever known without shedding a tear. The only early intervention he ever received was at age 1 and he did not finish the program. Although there are notes from his teachers expressing concerns about his "home environment." The last record of him attending that program was when he was 16mo. He moved into our home just after his 4th birthday.

I feel angry for him. For the time he lost and the hurt he endured. This isn't someone with limited resources or assistance. This is foster parent in a major metropolitan area. Resources abound in the area of early intervention. If it was too much, they could have allowed him to move to a home where they could get him the help he needed. Oh, and lets not forget the blind eye they turned the abuse going on in their home. Anyway, seeing her name and Facebook photo set a knot in my stomach and an ache in my heart. Obviously this is something I need to work on, especially if we plan to be re-certified with the agency this year. There is a chance I could run into her and I need to come to grips with this first and fast.

Forgiveness.

I know we are called to it, but I guess I am still having a hard time with this one. I bear her no ill will for the things she did to me after he moved, but to hurt my son in the way she did, I just can't seem to get over that.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cleaning Day

Given the weather outside, we figured it was the perfect day to clean out the fridge. Although I think the kids are a little disturbed by seeing an empty fridge and a full porch.
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How to wear out your kid before bed....

video

I think the video says it all, don't you?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dinner, dinner, what's for dinner?

So, Andy and I started the Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University a couple weeks ago.  To be honest, I wish we had done this years ago, but as it is, we're figuring it out now.  Anyway, part of this is so we can be better with our money, save more, spend less and pay off all our debt.  And maybe even prevent our kids from making the same mistakes we did.

How are we doing this?

For starters, we went on a very, very, VERY strict budget.  This month we cut everything down to the basics with no real extras, just to see how much we were really needing to spend and to put the most into our Emergency Fund (Baby Step 1).  The biggest extra to affect me...dining out (or ordering in for that mater).  No more can we order pizza or run through a drive-thru during a busy day. I'm packing lunches, fixing dinners and reheating left-overs.  Every day.  No exceptions.

This means I'm also having to learn to be creative with my cooking.  I have a fairly limited repertoire of dishes I can do successfully.  I never really learned to cook when I was younger and have sort of approached fixing dinner with trepidation.  And I can't rely on my old stand-bys of noodles and sauce very often.  Therefore, I'm branching out.

So far this week, I've made pinto beans with corn bread.  (I did these on an appointment day in the slow cooker since I knew I wouldn't be home much.)  The next night we reheated them and have them over rice.  I've also made Peas and Rice (a Lebanese dish from some old friends of Andy's family), stir fry and tonight baked ziti with chicken.

I'm actually feeling a new found sense of accomplishment and creativity in being able to do this. I might even branch out and try a couple of the Haitian recipes I have been reading about on my friend Corey's blog.

I would love to get some new things to try.  Things that are easy and flavorful enough for us, but no overwhelming for the kids.  I'd also love some suggestions. Like I said, my cooking experience is limited, but I am always willing and ready to try new things.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tonsils


This is Hannah today at the pediatricians. I took her back because after 7 days on the antibiotics, her strep wasn't getting much better. The fever is gone, but her throat is stil a bit sore and the blisters remain. They did another swab and it came back positive, again.
After much looking and discussing, we determined that Hannah's tonsils have some spots that are holding on to the strep, but can't get the antibiotic to it. I think the word necrosis was used, which sounded really bad until they explained it to me. My biggest worry was what do we do now and how serious is this. Since she's on antibiotics, she's not contagious, but she isn't very comfortable either. We decide to give her a penicillin shot and the follow up with Augmentan until her surgery. This should keep the strep isolated to those few spots on her tonsils and allow her to feel better.
The bad part was the penicillin shot. Hannah fainted the last time she got shots and this one is a bit more painful. She had it previously last spring when she has strep and remembers how much it hurt. As soon as we mentioned getting a shot, she burst into tears. Thankfully, Dr. Anne got us set up with Lolipops, but we still had to hold her down to give it to her. Then she gave us another fainting scare, although we hadn't taken her from the room yet. The picture is of her recovering. It took 45 minutes for her to be stable enough to leave. Talk about scaring Mommy.
We're home now and she's watching Cinderella on the couch. Snuggled up with her blanket and hippo and basking in all the attention a sick kiddo gets around here. I'm praying hard the drugs do their job and get her better. Her tonsils are MASSIVE now and given what's going on, that's a little scary. Thankfully, they are coming out in 2 1/2 weeks.
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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bedtime

Jason wanted to read the bedtime story tonight. It's a family favorite, Where the Wild Things Are.
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The Curse


Hannah, my beautiful, intelligent, witty, blessedly normal child, is driving me crazy.

Years ago, my mother bellowed out a curse that I think we all have heard once-upon-a-time.  "I hope you have a daughter JUST LIKE YOU!"  I scoffed at the idea for years, thinking I would actually be blessed by a kiddo like me who despite my teenage attitude was actually a pretty good kid.  But I was stuck on the struggles my mom had raising my teenage self, I never really thought about what I was like at say, 5.

Hannah has realized that she is smarter than me.  And in all likelihood, she is.  But I do know more than her right now which is causing us to butt heads a bit.  She pontificates about the house on the things of her world, telling us all how things would be if she were in charge.  I have a feeling that she will be the child the teacher leaves in charge when she steps out of the room.  In fact, I think they have already done that a bit.

I really love that she is so stinking smart.  Reading already, working out basic math and writing all the time.  But I'll tell you, it can be incredibly annoying to have a 5 year old tell you how to play Wii, fold the socks or make your breakfast.  Part of it is that she is just so verbal and talks all the time.  In fact, she talks so much that it is a problem at school and I am sure that we will be discussing it at conference time.  She remembers EVERYTHING I say or do and will call me to task if I mess up.  Which I do...constantly.  Because, lets face it, I'm raising 3 kids and it's taken it's toll on my mental and physical abilities.

But she's also incredibly kind.  Including those who would otherwise be left out and going out of her way to make people feel better when they are down.  I can't tell you how many times she has said we are too tough on Jason.  I shared the story of when she realized the harshness of Jason's adoption story.  I think it's great that she's got such a huge heart to go along with that incredible mind she has.

So, she's probably going to run the world and I will just have to get used to her telling me what to do.  Of course, she can't run the world for a few more years so maybe I still have a chance at getting her to clean her room.  Maybe.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Winter Wonderland

We got hammered. Yep, my guess is we have 12-14 inches on the ground. And it's beautiful, moist packing snow good for snow men, snow forts and snow ball fights. The kids were out last night in the heart of the storm and then again this afternoon for over 2 hours each time. It's great exercise especially since driveways needed to be cleared 2-3 times.
Here's a few shots of all the fun we had today.

A view out the back...


And the front, pre-shoveling.


Daddy and the kids building a mini-sledding hill since we couldn't get off our street this morning.


Hannah


Jason


Micah



Hannah got the first ride since she worked the longest at building the hill.



Micah thought it was the coolest thing ever.



Jason was just looking for some speed.



Daddy



No, he's not stuck to the tree, he's eating the snow that was blown to the trunk.  To each their own.
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Friday, February 5, 2010

Good news!

First, we have everything we need to get him the Autism Scholarship.

Second, Jason's interview with the school went very well and the admissions director told me today that Jason appears to be the type of student they can help.  The next step is testing and a full day at the school, shadowing a fellow student.  He'll get to do this on the 16th.

Keep the prayers coming!

Educational Insanity

Last night I had a meeting at the school to write a new IEP and discuss the results of the latest testing.  We also spent a great deal of time brain storming how to deal with the bullying situations.  The staff at the school really likes him and find him a joy to work with.  Overall, I am happy with the results, but still have some questions.

Because at the time we started testing, Autism was not in question, they did not do any educational autism assessments.  Now, they do believe he is on the spectrum and have written a portion of his IEP to deal with pragmatic language and social skills.  In fact, this social group that he is now a part of actually meets in the specialized Autism classroom once a week.  However, because they didn't do their assessment, they couldn't take his doctor's letter at face value and qualify him under Autism for his IEP.  My concern is that he will need this qualification to get the Autism Scholarship to cover the new school if he gets in, but the school psychologist says that is not the case.  That I just need to call the district office and they will help me through the steps in getting the scholarship.  Still, I'm going to be making some phone calls today to confirm this.

In addition to being stressed and in a meeting most of yesterday evening, this morning I am taking Jason over to visit the new school.  We are still very hopeful that this will work out, but don't know anything yet. They mentioned concerns about his language scores and the "underlying cause" of his LD.  We're still hopeful though and appreciate any and all prayers as we work towards this.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hannah's Tonsils

Well, after consulting with our ENT yesterday, it was decided that Hannah's tonsils need to come out.  They are massive, impeding her ability to eat and breathe and she keeps getting strep. On the plus side, she's little enough that the recovery will be easier, but it will still be hard.

The surgery won't be until the end of the month, after her strep is cleared up.  I think she is pretty stoked about the prospect of eating all the popsicles her heart desires.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dr. Seuss

"I don't want Green Eggs and Ham.  I want brownies and pancakes."

Micah's declaration after bedtime story tonight.  Gotta love it.

Lots and lots and lots of stuff...

We have so much going on right now, my head is spinning.

First, we have been invaded by illness.  Micah and Hannah have strep throat and Andy has tonsillitis, bronchitis and pink-eye.  Jason and I are so far healthy, but I think our days are numbered.  I think I might take my friend Nancy's advice and build us a bubble.

Jason's observation by the new school admissions department went well and they are "interviewing" him on Friday morning.  So far, we have no indication of how things are going, but they do have some concerns about the underlying causes of his LD as well as his language issues.  Still, we're praying that they will at least give him a chance.

Jason's present school situation is continuing to chug along.  We have his new MFE/IEP meeting tomorrow.  He's making great progress on his goals so I don't know what he will still qualify in.  For special education parents, this can be a good and a bad thing.  We don't want to see them lose there assistance, but we also want to see them make progress.  For example, Jason is doing great in math, but it's because of how the math is being taught to him.  Put him in a regular math class and he will fall behind again.  It's a bit of a catch-22.

Jason's also still struggling socially as school.  We've had a few more incidents of bullying behavior and I have a feeling a portion of tomorrow's meeting will be devoted to talking about it.  Honestly, we are doing everything we can to work with Jason on his social skills and he is making progress.  He's in individual and small group therapy as well as participating ins social groups at school.  Yet, the game of frustrating and bating Jason continues.  I've honestly reached the end of my patience, so tomorrow's meeting should be an interesting one.

We also started doing Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University at church.  It's a great class and we are really learning a lot.  Still, it also means that we have tightened our budget and there are no more Starbucks Fraps in my near future.  On the bright side though is we'll gain financial peace and all this eating in will make me a better cook and healthier person.

Which leads up to our final bit of news...

Andy and I are praying about adopting again.  There is still a long way for us to go on research and prayer, but it's in the open now.  The kids think it's great and Hannah is begging for a baby sister.  Right now, we're thinking it will like be a waiting child from the foster care system.  We have a lot of questions, but know that God can answer them as He has in the past.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sometimes it works...

...and sometimes it doesn't.

I blogged last week that Jason was doing remarkably well.  And he was.  Until today.  I have no idea why, but starting this morning, he's lost the ability to focus, complete a task and hold a conversation.  Nothing obvious has changed.  His meds are the same as is his schedule.  He's sleeping, school is going well and we've entered into that mid-winter lull where we spend a lot of time together as a family.

This evening we've had no less than 4 mini-tantrums.  All with tears and cries that he can't explain.  He can't seem to vocalize what's wrong and is taking it out on the rest of us.  I have an idea of what is going on, but it won't get better until he talks to us.  And so far he's simply silent.

I know that this too shall pass, but it's still hard.  I just wish life wasn't so tough for my little guy.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Micah's Surgery

Micah had his 3rd set of tubes pput in his ears this morning. He got his first at 8 months, his second at 22 months and now his third at 46 months. We are hoping these are his last.
So, being an old pro at this, it didn't occur to me that Micah wouldn't remember a thing about the surgery center or the process involved. They offer a chance to bring you kids in a few days before the operation so they can be familiar with their surroundings and so on, but I didn't sign him up as this was his third time. Of course, I realized this was a bad idea when last night we were talking about it and I realized he had no idea when was going to happen. Too late now, I guess.
Micah actually did quite well. Because he's older, we drew a 9:30am surgery time meaning we had to leave at 8am. He's usually on his way to school with a full belly at this point. This meant the up and ready was no problem, but the full belly might have been. Thankfully, he didn't notice he didn't eat breakfast since I didn't feed anyone before I left. (Jason and Hannah had to wait for Grandma to feed them after I left.) When we got to the center, he settled right into the registration chair, got his bracelet then ran off to find the play room. He made a new friend, Sophia, and they played happily with the Aquadoodle until it was time to go.


Here is my little man all ready to go. He though the silly socks and pjs were quite funny and laughed at all the prep stuff. Nothing seamed to phase him at all, even when the nurse gave him some Motrin and Versed.



The center gives out little stuffed bears for the kids and Micah was excited that HIS bear got a new "doctor" bear to play with. At this point, teh versed was starting to kick in and he was really happy. Also, the anesthesiologist made him laugh at the idea the gas mask was actually a potty for the bears.



Daddy came with me this time because I wasn't sure how Micah'd handle waking up. With his past two surgeries, he cried and fought when waking up. He bigger now and I wanted an extra hand. By the time we took this picture, the Versed was in full effect and his was seriously loopy. Daddy's pokey face was quite fun.



The surgery doesn't take long and we were back with him in under a half an hour. He didn't cry at all and just seemed really sleepy when we got to him. He said his ears didn't hurt which is a good thing and he was happy to just sit and eat his animal crackers and sip his apple juice. He also though the sticker on his forehead was a real trip.
On the medical side of things, the doctor said the surgery went well. Micah's right ear drum apparently now has a weak spot and teh doctor had to place the tube hight than normal. This weak spot was actually sunken against the wall of his middle ear, so when the doctor flushed the fluid, he had to "pop" it back out again. We'll have to keep a close eye on his hearing because all of that will affect his earing in some way. Still, we have some time before he starts kindergarten and being ina special needs preschool, we have everything in place should his hearing loss become more pronounced.
It's been a long morning already, but we're home now and he's enjoying his favorite pastime...watching playing Star Wars.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Get the Flu Shot Folks!

Almost 2 weeks ago I ran away for the weekend to Chicago.

First, lets just say I had a GREAT time.  My friend, Ruth, was an incredible host and showed off the wonders of her city like a true Chicagoan should  Even with the frigid cold and snow, we still had a roaring good time.  It was great to see amy friends again, talk about our families and laugh at stuff no one else would ever think to laugh at.  We have a new theme song too, although I can't really share it, but let's just say that Ruth needed to hit confession after we learned it.

So, where have I been?

Sick.

On the flight there, I caught the flu.  I never got a regular flu shot this year as I was too busy with the holiday madness to get in.  Plus, after having H1N1 I figured I was safe.

WRONG.

I survived my weekend with the aid of Motrin, Cold-Ez and NyQuil.  The I got home and simply collapsed.  It shouldn't surprise me that I got sick.  I was pretty run down when I left, leaving my immune system open for attack regardless of how many vitamins I might pop.  Still, I spent the next 5 days in bed recovering from my weekend away and the flu.  Then I have been digging out of the domestic mess that occurs when the mom of the house is down for the count.  Andy had to work so the majority of the parenting my kids received last week was in front of the TV with me issuing orders for silence and handing out snacks from my bed.  I did manage car-pool everyday, but the was about the extent of my verticalness.

Anyway, I'm back now and doing well.  Jason tends to freak out a bit when I get sick.  Anger at me tends to be his response in the past because as his mommy, I AM NOT ALLOWED TO BE SICK.  Sadly, parenting him and his siblings has driven my immune system to the toilet and I do actually be quite ill, though it is improving...somewhat.  This time I fully expected many horrors be be unleashed as I not only got sick, but I did so AFTER LEAVING HIM.

And you know what?

He hasn't.

Not even a little back talk.

He's been helpful, obedient and kind.  He's been working hard on his school work, helping with his siblings and doing whatever it is we ask of him.  This is so unlike him I've been walking around in shock.

I think folks, we are turning a corner.  I think.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I'm running away...

Or trying to at least.

My amazing, loving, out-of-this-world husband knows that every now and then, Mommy needs a break.  So, once a year (and sometimes twice if I'm really lucky) I get to go away and spend time with some of my friends.  This time 3 of us are visiting our friend Ruth in Chicago.  All of us parent difficult kids and it's great to get together with other moms who really get "it." 

The only down side is that I leave today.  As I write this, I am sitting in the airport while a snow storm rages outside.  The same snow storm that hit Chicago this morning.  At this point, Southwest is still saying we are leaving "On Time." 

I want to believe them.

I really do. 

The flight a ahead of ours is even boarding.

BUT...

I can't see the runway.  And there is at least an inch of snow on the plane at the neighboring gate.

Still, I'm hopeful I'll get there. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Another Possibility for Jason

A few weeks before Christmas, a dear friend shared with me that a local private school for LD kids is now accepting Ohio's Autism Scholarship.  I have been eyeing this school for a while, but it has always been cost prohibitive.  It has an amazing reputation amongst educators and special ed parents in our area.  The scholarship with make him going there a real possibility, so I finally called at Andy and I went for a meeting with their admissions director and toured the school.

All I can say is WOW!  If I were to design a school for my son, THIS would be what I would do.  The classes sizes are small with 2 certified teachers in each class.  Kids are placed by their learning level, not their grade and every single subject is taught from an LD perspective.  Yes, even art and gym.  There are no cavernous desks for him to lose things in and the kids each carry an identical notebook with planner and sections built in.  Each section of the planner is signed by each teacher, the student and the parent each day.  It was just awesome.

That said, we are now at the hard part.  We have completed the application, sent the release forms on to his doctors and school and are waiting to see what they say.  Because it is a private school, they are very selective about who gets in.  They can't help every student are are looking for kids with average to above average intelligence who struggle because of their LD.  The don't accept kids with behavior issues that don't stem from the LD itself and even though they take kids with an Autism diagnosis, they were quick to say they are not a school for Autism.  They accept kids who are very mild on the spectrum who can function in a classroom with peers.  They look at each child as a whole person and will even interview him and give him a full day "tryout" to make sure it is a good fit.   Even Jason's current teacher and principal think this is a good thing.  They have been super cooperative in making sure the records are sent and are offering to be of any help they can be.

All that said, we really want him to get in.  We think, based on the numerous assessments that Jason has had, that he fits what they are looking for, but we don't know for sure.  Obviously, if it's not a good fit and they can't help him, then it's not the place for him. 

The problem is that we have hit a wall with public school.  Jason's peers are just frankly mean to him and although we love the staff and teachers at his current school, I could do without the majority of the students there.  I would homeschool again if Jason would agree to.  But, honestly, I don't think I could teach him because I just don't understand his LD and it would probably be very frustrating for both of us.    Moving him to another school in the district s always a possibility, but kids are cruel everywhere and until Jason figures out the social game, then I can't see that working either.

So right now, our hope is pinned on this new school.  At this point, we are waiting to see if he looks like what they want on paper, then we move forward to the interview stage.  We have no idea how this will turn out, but we are praying hard it works out and Jason can have a fresh start at a school where he is the normal rather than the exception.



Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Micah ate dinner!

Tonight, Micah ate a bite of everything we put on his plate.  He had a steamed carrot, 2 steamed snow peas, a piece of steamed broccoli and about two tablespoons of homemade macaroni and cheese.

Why is that significant, you ask?

Because Micah only eats certain foods.  In fact, 3 months ago, he had reduced back down to about 6.  None of which were healthy and none of which were a protein source.

We backed off for a while on increasing his diet and just let him be.  We also added a protein drink for kids that we called his "chocolate milk" just to get him some nutrition and stabilize his blood sugar.  Finally he started branching out again on his own with a little coaxing from us.

When you have a kid with food issues, it consumes a lot of your time and energy.  Every meal, every bite has to be carefully measured.  Sometimes a food simply being at the same table or in the same room would be too much.  Micah approaches our dinner table with trepidation.  He carefully examines each item on the table looking for something he will eat.  And I always have something on the table I know he will eat because otherwise, he won't stay and cries through our dinnertime.

At this point, Micah's food issues are part sensory and part fear.  Taking a bite of a baked nugget you have eaten since toddlerhood only to find yourself gagging and puking on your mom will make you pretty fearful about what you put in your mouth.

But tonight he ate.  He has NEVER eaten 4 cooked vegetables at one sitting.  I might get a nibble or a touch to the tongue of one, but chewing and swallowing...no way.  And mac and cheese that didn't come from the blue box...NEVER.

I didn't really think he would eat anything, actually.  My only request tonight was that he at least try to taste things and then I would get him his food.  I also attempted to bribe him a bit with the promise of a piece of Christmas fudge if he actually ate everything on the plate.

Apparently my bribe worked.  Suddenly he was willing to try and although he did gag a couple of times, he powered through and cleaned his whole plate.

He was so proud of himself.

Go Micah!

Returning

No, I haven't gone anywhere.  I just disappeared into the lovely holiday madness we have around here.  Since I last posted, Micah has had 3 more ear infections, Hannah's taught herself to read and Jason started a rapid spiral down that finally hit bottom a few days after Christmas.  Those are both fairly normal things for this time of year around here, but it still doesn't leave me much time to write although I probably had plenty to say.

That said, Micah is getting a 3rd set of ear tubes in a couple of weeks.  Looking back, I realized that for the last 4 winters, he will have had surgery on his ears 3 time starting when he was 8 months old.  We got a reprieve from the whole thing las year as his tubes were still in and functional.  They fell out in July and his ears have proven they just can't handle things on their own yet.

On the plus side, this should mean he can hear me again, be able to talk quieter and no longer need dose after dose of antibiotics.  And yes, I know research shows that ear infections in children over 2 don't need to be treated with antibiotics, but my son has blown his ear drums out no less than 3 times each.  I'm a bit paranoid about it.  He's already testing with borderline hearing loss in both ears so we need to really be proactive hear.  Micah's making this easier too because he can now tell us when his ear hurts and is willingly letting doctors look at them.

As I said, Jason did his standard holiday crash and burn.  I could list a hundred reasons WHY he does this.  The short of it is he has a tough life and the holidays don't make it any easier.  We did all our usual things to help him but nothing seemed to work this year.  He was determined to see just how far he could push things. It culminated one evening shortly after Christmas with his declaring he didn't need any of us and wanted to go back to his foster home.  All of this is a lie, of course.  He doesn't want to leave but he was hurting so badly and didn't know what to do with everything inside him, so he lashed out at the safest people in his life, Andy and I.

I am not immune to emotions, exhaustion or general holiday stress and my own stuff coupled with the weeks of venom Jason was spitting at me pushed me to brink as well.  I ended up in tears.  Then he was in tears because he made me cry.  Then he finally started wailing about all that was inside of him.  He feels stupid and mad and abandoned and worthless and unlovable.  So, of course, it made sense to him to take all that out on the people who tell him he is the opposite.  We're his safe people, his family.  And once he finally let it all out, we were able to refill him with all the good stuff we can and talk through so much of his wrong thinking.

Once it was out, it was a near complete 180.  He started cooperating again, helping out around the house, being kind and smiling.  Thankfully, we had therapy just a couple of days later and were able to process this all some more.  Still, it's hard as a mom to get that good of a look at how your kid really feels about himself.  We've been working hard to correct it for years and while he knows that in our family, he is none of those things, I think he still feels it's how the world sees him.

Hannah just seems to sail through all of this.  I say seems, because I know that it is hard on her to have a little brother who is constantly sick and an older brother who, well, is so needy.  She's continuing on her quest to finish kindergarten before she even gets there.  She's constantly wanting me to teach her.  We do math and reading.  Over Christmas, she learned to tell time on a digital clock, read Green Eggs and Ham and basic addition.  Couple that with her desire to just do everything on her own and she is growing up way to fast for my liking.

Life is settling back down.  The kids are all back in school today and I get a Mom Retreat this weekend with 3 of my friends in Chicago.  It's fun when a group of moms all raising similar kids get together.  We can laugh (and cry) about thing no one else can.  I'm looking forward to going, although I will miss Andy and the kids while I am gone.

That said, it's good to be back to blogging.