Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Wedding

4 What are your thoughts?
Last weekend, my sister married one of my good friends. But before I tell you more about the wedding, I will tell you more about my sister Alex.

Being 6 years older than her, I did not receive her with excitement, but rather jealousy. The first day she was home from the hospital, she was peacefully sleeping in the middle of my parents bed. I had been told to be quiet too many times and to be careful with the baby. Something was wrong, I used to be the center of attention and this tiny baby was ruining my life! So I pinched her. Hard enough to wake her up and make her cry. I was not a very nice older sister. I was one that would have told you I had an annoying little sister. Truth be told, I was too busy for her, to caught up in my own world to pay attention to my sister. When I left for college, she was only 12. Somehow, in that time, she grew up. Thankfully, so did I.

While I cannot make up the time lost and be the big sister I wish I had been. Now I get to be not just a sister, but also a friend.  And not just any friend, a best friend. I love Ale dearly and I am blessed to have hr as my sister.

Now about Jon. He was a good friend of mine from college. We worked together at camp and we even went on a missions trip together. When we were in Ukraine adopting Nina, Andy and I were pretty discouraged. But Jon was there praying for us and sending us messages reminding us of why we were there, encouraging us to stay strong. In one of those messages I said, "Jon, I want you to meet my sister!" And like they say...the rest is history.

The 3 sisters

 Ellie: The flower girl.

 My mom with her 3 girls.

Alex and I

Alex with our aunt Martha. She is one of the most favorite people in my life! 

The sisters at the reception.

Nichole danced and danced and danced and did not like the fact that I was trying to get her picture taken.

Ellie danced and had a lot of fun too.

Nina also had enough people come and ask her to dance.

Congratulations Jon and Ale! We are so happy for you! 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ellie is 6

3 What are your thoughts?
What busy weeks we have had! I did not get to update the blog and share that I now have a 6 year old!

Remember when you turned six? The night before my 6th birthday I sat at the edge of my parent's bed, alone in their room. I kept staring at my left hand, all 5 fingers spread apart, then I would slowly bring up my right pointer finger and say "Seis!" The thrill of having to use TWO hands would make me giggle and feel butterflies in my stomach.

While Ellie did not do this to my knowledge, she is still her mother's daughter and the excitement over turning 6 was quite obvious around the house!

Lots of new things happen when you turn 6 (in case you did not know)
  • You get to chose a new favorite color
  • You get to become your favorite character all day on your birthday
  • You get cake
  • Your family is supposed to be waiting for you in the morning and jump up and break into song as they sing happy birthday
  • You get  a birthday party
  • It means you are a big girl (you know, since you need TWO hands to show your age...unless you use sign language I suppose)
  • You can do your own hair, no need for mom, regardless of what she thinks
Ellie had a birthday party with some of her new little friends. They were all dressed like princesses and we had a lot of fun. We had games, crafts, and of course a pinata! We are thankful for the new friendships that she has here. Overall, she has done the best as we have transitioned to our new town. We thought she would struggle the most and here she is showing us what loving and living life is all about.

Wow! Six years sure go by fast. I promise every night since she was born, I would lay Ellie down to sleep and she looked just the same the following morning. So how did she get this big!

Being Ellie's mom has been a joy. She is the little girl I always dreamed of. We have fun together, we enjoy each other, and we laugh a lot. Whenever she is upset or angry with me, she writes me notes to express her feelings, something that I really do love about her as she controls her temper that way.

She has a heart full of acceptance and tenderness towards other people. She has the capability to look at every person's potential, and many times she helps me see that in others. Funny how it is your kids that tech you some of the most important lessons in life.

I am proud of her...incredibly proud of her. I love my little princess with such strength.

My sweet Ellie Belly,
As we celebrate your 6th birthday, I am thankful that God gave you to us. it is a  great honor to see you grow up, mature, and care for others.
I love you more than you know.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The IEP Process: Part 2

3 What are your thoughts?

The IEP Process: Part 1 (Don't miss the previous post on IEPs)

The first thing I did when we were moving was contact the school district and ask to speak with the special education director. I was fearful of the process once more but felt better prepared.

I spent over an hour talking to the special education teacher and I was impressed that she had given me that much time since I was not even a resident of the school district yet. I had so many questions and she answered every single one of them. When I did not understand, she would back up to make sure I was following along. When I was writing notes for reference, she was making sure I had the correct information. In addition, when I called a second time with more questions, she still had time to help me navigate and understand the process fully and what our options could be and what evaluations would be needed.

Once we moved and I got the girls enrolled in school, the team came together and we began the process of an IEP and getting the girls ready for school.

The first thing they did was gather information about our family and the girls individually. There were parent interviews, questionnaires, and dialog. I was encouraged to share my fears, my expectations, and goals I had for each girl.

I was impressed with the evaluations and the therapists. These women could be working doing private therapy because they are that good! It was especially reassuring to find out that the physical therapist has an adult daughter with Down syndrome. Now how neat is that!

Once again, the special education teacher took time to talk through the different placement options for Nina. I asked more questions and she also asked me good questions that got me thinking. Tracy, you will never know how much I value and appreciate all the time that you were willing to give to our family. It made all the difference!

After evaluations were completed, an IEP meeting was set. I asked for the draft before the meeting so I could go through it and know what we would be talking about and discussing. They had those to me as promised.

I feel it is important to make a side note here. Some may wonder why it is so hard for parents to deal with IEPs, especially when they are meant to help their child. But this is why, (at least from my personal experience while reading Nichole's drafts). An IEP focuses on the child’s weaknesses and as a parent, it is overwhelming to see all of your child’s weaknesses wrapped up together with all the positives and strengths left out. Emotionally, it is tough, really tough. Having the draft before the meeting helps a lot! You can read it, deal with it, and remind yourself what the goal of an IEP is: to help your child in their weaknesses. Then you take a deep breath, remind yourself of what an incredible child you have, how many strengths they have, and you are ready to get the ball rolling and plan an IEP.

A good team will make sure to bring up the strengths of the child at a meeting, because they will know it is important for the parent to hear that too. Once again I will say, the reason it is not written as part of the IEP is because if it is a strength, help and intervention are not needed.

Before the IEP meeting I sat down and wrote down a list of goals I wanted for Nina and Nichole to work towards in the following year. I included speech, gross motor (physical therapy), fine motor (occupational therapy) social, emotional, and developmental goals. For Nichole, I also wanted to make sure it was written in her IEP that she is a rascal has a tendency to wander and therefore is imperative that she is not able to get out of her classroom or be outside without constant supervision.

The morning of the IEP meeting, we were ready with coffee, donuts, and feeling excited to talk about what the school year would look like for our girls. While the IEP meetings are quite formal, all the therapists and teachers were very gracious, friendly, and we were all working together to develop a plan that would help Nina and Nichole reach their fullest potential.

When we got to the goals, I was encouraged that the goals I had written were almost the same goals they had. That is what you call being on the same page!

Once we were done, we were excited not only about the school year, but about the team! I do not take this for granted. I am incredibly thankful for these wonderful people that loved our girls and saw their beauty and potential. Incredibly thankful.

And to all those parents out there, I highly recommend the book, "Wright’s Law: From Emotions to Advocacy." A must read if you ever have to sit through and IEP.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The IEP Process: Part 1

0 What are your thoughts?

IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan. If you are the parent of a child with special needs, you might have an emotional reaction just by thinking about your child's IEP.

While this is certainly not the case for all, many parents of children with special needs will tell you that the IEP process is one of the most difficult parts of their journey with special needs. Being so connected to the world of special needs, I have many friends that walk out of IEP meetings and break down in tears. Many feel that they have to fight with all their might in order to get their children the services that they need. It is not unusual to hear that parents bring trained advocates to these meetings, and in some instances, some parents do bring lawyers. I say this not because it happens often, but because it does happen, and it shows you what an emotionally charged process this can be for all involved.

Ultimately the goal should be to provide an individualized plan that will help the child develop to his/her full potential.

For this reason, I dreaded the day we would have to do an IEP for Nina and Nichole.

There are specific Special Education Laws that all school districts are to follow. Every child is to be placed in a LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) and follow the IDEA Law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

Most children enrolled in an Early Intervention program automatically transition into the school system when they turn 3 and begin the process of having an IEP. This should have happened with Nichole, but it did not. We actually declined the IEP and I began "homeschooling" Nichole. Why? Because I did not feel like we were helped during the transition.

Nichole's birthday is in October and I had asked to do walk-in services until January, so that Nichole did not have to begin school in the middle of a school year. The team was supportive of this choice, but I was taken aback when presented with the option of Nichole being placed in the self-contained classroom. An option that we had agreed months before would not work for Nichole, as she would do better with typical developing children. I asked for the reason behind the change and the answer was simply classroom size. One of the team members mentioned Nichole would be a great role model for the children it that class. I don't think so. Nichole has Down syndrome, she is delayed, and she would be placed somewhere where she would be the role model? It made no sense to me at all. Since we knew we would be moving, we did not "fight" and declined services.

Now, I want to stress here, that this is how I perceived things. It is very possible that I did not understand the process or the options we had. It could have simply been my lack of understanding or not knowing which questions to ask. After all, I do not have a degree in special education. However, nobody took the time to clearly explain the process to me. There were times where I stated I did not understand something (per what I knew about the IDEA and LRE law) and I was not given answers or a clear direction. I felt quite helpless, and I did not feel like there was a “team” working on what was best for Nichole. It was discouraging, I felt defeated, I think they saw that, yet there was no offer to sit down so we could talk in detail about the process.

Then there was Nina. She was almost 4 when we brought her home. We knew she needed services. Yet, somehow, she did not qualify for services in our school district. Again, maybe there was a misunderstanding. It is possible because I know there were many parents that were pleased with that school district. Personally, I really liked all the people we worked with; I thought we had a great professional relationship. I am just not sure what happened.

I learned a lot from this experience. I needed to ask lots of questions, I needed to keep pushing and making sure that I knew what was going on. I needed to communicate that what was a simple process of transitioning and finding appropriate placement to them was not that simple for me. I allowed myself to be intimidated and frustrated. In short, I needed to be a better advocate. I could sit here and point the finger at them, but quite honestly on my side, I dropped the ball, so I was not going to allow that to happen again.

The IEP Process: Part 2

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Review: The Canary List by Sigmund Brower

0 What are your thoughts?
A WaterBrook Multnomah Book
The Canary List
Sigmund Brower

Jaimie feels as if Evil has been hunting her all of her life. There are only a few people she trusts: her therapist, who has been helping her fight Evil, and her teacher, Mr. G.
On a night where Evil hunts her, and unable to reach her therapist, Jaimie ends up at her teacher's house asking for help. All Grey Crokett wanted to do that night was celebrate the anniversary of her daughter's death, but instead, he finds himself helping one of his students. The unfolding of events that follow that night send Crokett searching for those that want Jaimie, and those that seem to want him out of the picture...but why? The answers lead him to the Vatican, and deep dark secrets that have been kept and hidden for a long time.

What I liked about this book:
-I could not put it down, the story was fascinating.
-If you like suspense/mystery, I think you will enjoy this book.
-Makes you think about the spiritual realm that we do not see.

There is nothing I did not like about the book. It is not a book that I will read again and again, but I really enjoyed it. I am a Tedd Dekker fan and Sigmund Brower is just as good. Actually, I enjoyed this novel better than the last few Dekker novels

You can read more about the book and the first chapter by clicking HERE.

I received this book for free by WaterbrookMultnomah in exchange for my honest review.

If You Feel Broken...

0 What are your thoughts?
"Christ is building his kingdom with the broken things of earth. People desire only the strong, successful, victorious, and unbroken things in life to build their kingdoms, but God is the God of the unsuccessful – the God of those who have failed. Heaven is being filled with earth’s broken lives, and there is no “bruised reed” (Isa. 42:3) that Christ cannot take and restore to a glorious place of blessing and beauty. He can take a life crushed by pain or sorrow and make it a harp whose music will be total praise. He can lift earth’s saddest failure up to heaven’s glory." J.R. Miller

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Book Review: Matar A Lutero by Mario Escobar

1 What are your thoughts?
A Thomas Nelson Publishing

Nelson Publishing Spanish Book Description:

"Temo más lo que está dentro de mí, que lo que viene de fuera".—Martín Lutero

Un cuento apasionante de Martín Lutero de las mismas páginas de la historia. Era medianoche cuando el grupo de caballeros abandonó la ciudad. Los cascos de los caballos repiquetearon en el empedrado de sus calles hasta atravesar el Rin, la antigua frontera entre el civilizado mundo de Roma y los bárbaros. No habían tenido tiempo para recoger el equipaje, tan grave era la amenaza que se cernía sobre el protegido del príncipe Federico de Sajonia, y no había tiempo que perder. El grupo era reducido, sólo tres escoltas y el propio Lutero que cabalgaba torpemente sobre el caballo, poco acostumbrado a montar. El pobre monje se esforzaba por no retrasar el paso de su escolta. Mientras los fugitivos recorrían los campos próximos a la ciudad, sus habitaciones eran registradas por soldados del emperador Carlos. El capitán Felipe Diego de Mendoza se quejó: "Alguien les ha advertido, ahora tendremos que seguirlos por toda Alemania".

What a pleasure to read a book in my native language. Although, after reading the book and considering writing the review in Spanish, I realize how English has become my first language. The good news is, this book is available in English too. So you can always get a copy and enjoy the story.

I am not familiar with the story of Martin Luther and all that took place in the church during his time. I know little about church history (ironic, isn't is, since I am married to a pastor and Andy loves church history) and I was never a big fan of history. Why is this important? Because knowing little about church history and little about world history, it was hard for me to follow the story and recognize the characters. I was lost when it came to the political and religious figures of the time and I did not feel the story helped me understand who was who, what they did, and what was the significance of Martin Luther's movement at that time. I could not follow who was from France, who was from Spain, who was from Italy, and who was from Germany. I did not follow well who were the religious figures and who were the political ones.

This book narrates the story of Martin Luther's time when political and religious figures wanted to kill him.  He was hidden for a period of time in which he translated the New Testament into German. During his time of "exhile" he developed a close friendship with Juan Mendoza, the man in charge of protecting him, and Elisabeth, a young lady that cared for him. Luther changes their lives, teaches them to read, and teaches them about Christ. Eventually Juan and Elisabeth marry, which is the only happy moment in the story.

What I liked about the book:
-It was in Spanish.
-Mario Escobar is an artist with his words. A few times I re-read a sentence just for the pleasure of the written word.
-I did learn about Martin Luther and the conflict that he created withing the church and the world.
-The chapters were very short and easy to read. The longest chapter was only 4 pages long. It moved the story quickly.
-I was moved by the story.

What I did not like:
-Being a little ignorant on my history, I struggled to follow the other characters. The chapters were so short that for someone like me, it did not do enough to make me understand what was going on. I was not able to "fill in the blank" from my knowledge on history and I felt lost from chapter to chapter.
-Although the story moved quickly, because the chapters are short, I felt the story could have been elaborated better and the characters better developed. I wanted and needed more!

For those history lovers, this is a great novel. Mario Escobar has a way with words and his writing in enjoyable. Personally, I struggled to get into the story, but I believe this is one of those instances where I recognize the brilliance of the book regardless of my personal preferences. I read a book in a genre I typically would not, and I was pleasantly surprised and confronted by the fact that I am quite ignorant when it comes to our world history.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, weather you read it in English or Spanish.

I recieved this book for free by Thomas Nelson Publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That

6 What are your thoughts?

August is already here and I am scratching my head trying to figure out if July went by too fast, or if it lasted forever because a lot of things happened last month.

July had Ellie loving and enjoying summer school. She took a "Getting Ready for Kindergarten" class. For 4 weeks Ellie spent her mornings in school, and she has already decided that she will like recess and art most of all. Her teacher was really nice and said Ellie would do fantastic in school. In hindsight, we should have had Nina in summer school as well, but that post will come later, as there is much to share about what the plan for Nina will be once school starts.

One of the nice things about our new town, is that it is close enough to big cities. And cities that people like to visit (like Chicago). It has been great to see friends and family stop by because we are "on their way" to their final destinations. It was so fun to see our friends, the Otts, and spend a day with them. We love our new town and we love the people here, but we really miss our friends from Iowa . We keep praying that God brings some of them here!

Our family spent the 4th of July weekend with the Loraine family. If you have read this blog before, you know that Nina and Oksana were best friends at their orphanage. Their friendship has expanded towards our families and we now consider the Loraines dear friends ours. You know how we pray about God people bringing to come and join us here? Loraines are at the top of the list. So Larry and Erin, we are patiently waiting for you!
And in case you did not get to see the video of Nina and Oksana's reunion, here it is!

During our visit with the Loraine's, we got to see some other friends from our Down syndrome family. It was a fun, meaningful, and full week!

When we got home from St. Louis, the Wetmore clan (minus working dad) came to see us. I got to meet Thom and Tammy while we were adopting our daughter's in Ukraine. The first time we mt we were sharing our stories of how we were called to adopt children with special needs and we really had a great heart connection.
Both, Tammy and I were stuck in Ukraine for many days and we chatted as we waited. It was nice to know that we were not going crazy and that being an emotional mess in the midst of adoption, being alone in a foreign country without our husbands, was not a sign of insanity.
It was wonderful to finally meet all the Wetmore kids as they have such a special place in my heart. I did ask Tammy what were the chances she would move "back home" since she is from around this area, but I think they like their sunny Florida weather.

Next, my family came to visit and we had Ellie's early birthday celebration. It was a lot of fun and it was nice to have my mom, stepdad, and sisters see our new place. I really do wish we lived closer to family. Now that we are farther away, it makes me sad to think we might not see each other as often. Being from Mexico, I have great memories of being at my grandparents house every week, of my aunt, who I called "Mama Pata" and how close we were. I wish my girls could grow up having the same. Yet, when we lived in Iowa we created family. As we settle, God will provide family for us here as well.
The day my family left, Andy's sister and her family came to spend a couple of days with us. The time went by too fast.

In that time, the school district stepped it up and we got evaluations done for Nina and Nichole. They were evaluated by a Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Speech pathologist, and Special Education Teacher. And remember, I have 2 kids that needed evals, so that is a lot! And I was impressed by the caliber of the school therapists.
After only a week, we had IEP meetings, and they agreed to have them at my home since it was the easiest for our family. I had written goals for both girls and it was pretty sweet how they were almost identical to goals they had written for my girls.
Oh there is so much to share about their IEP's. For now I will say that I am so excited!
Oh, and I should mention I had the drafts the day before :)
Oh, and one more thing, the Physical Therapist has a daughter with Down syndrome, now how sweet is that!     Photo credit

We ended our July going to northern Minnesota to the Stumbo family Reunion. It was wonderful to see family and it makes me sad (once again) that some only see once a year. So I tried to do some more recruiting with 2 of Andy's cousins. Surely they would love our new town!

The girls spent time playing with their cousins at the beach. One of the highlights was the See-Weed Monster. Which in a previous year scared all the children. However, this year he had candy, and the girls knew that it was only grandpa pretending. Actually, I know Ellie was pretty proud that it was her grandpa who was covered by those slimy weeds.
Now throw in between all these happenings Physical Therapy for Nina 3 times a week. A Private Speech evaluation for Nichole, private Physical therapy evaluation for Nichole, and a couple of actual therapies for her (since it is summer and I do want her to get some services until school starts), and you realize why I am scratching my head in confusion. Did all this really happen last month? Or did time stop so we could fit this all in? I will never know, but all in all, it was good!

And now you know why there were only a few posts in July.



Related Posts with Thumbnails