Max completed eighth grade and will be headed to the high school next year. He had to select classes to take in the fall. Sadly, the state mandates so much for students, there is little room for electives. He was interested in Vocational Agriculture classes and Art, but it seems he doesn't have enough room for both in his schedule. After receiving a syllabus from the Ag department, he began to question the class. I spoke to the guidance counselor and after some discussion, we switched him from VoAg to art class for the fall. Being home just at a year, school curriculum is still a challenge, so Art will be a nice escape for him. Sadly, its only a semester class.
Max has an interest in soccer. He loved playing with his peers at the orphanage in Ukraine. He enjoys seeing how high and far he can kick the ball. This spring he helped coach Hannah's Upwards soccer team. He only took out one kiddo with a shagged ball this spring. Knocked her flat. (Thankfully it was his sister, not someone else.) He has extreme strength behind a kick. He is trying out for the high school soccer team. This in itself has been a learning experience for all of us. He has had to learn names of peers, gather information about future practices, and relay those to us. It has had its challenges to say the least. Each week, less people are "that dude" and I hear more names in the place of it.
Hannah completed first grade. At the end of the year she received an award for Excellent Effort. I will say that Hannah's determination is what keeps her going. She wants to keep up with her peers and do what they are doing. She doesn't mind the extra help in the classroom from an IEP teacher or aide, but I hear a lot about the times she has to leave class. Hannah debated long and hard on playing soccer this spring. Her cousin has played in the school rec league for several years, and the two of them would talk about soccer in the back seat on the way to and from school. One day I remember her cousin talking about all the things she would do in soccer and she got very teary very quickly. It wasn't anything that he had said, but she came to the realization that she couldn't do many of those things he spoke of. And so, she decided no soccer. We talked about Upwards soccer with her, and how the basis of Upwards was a little different than rec league. Let me tell you, though she typically played midfield by choice, and her coach often picked her up and ran her to where the ball was, she gave it her full effort all season. She took two balls to the head and a line drive from her brother that bent the heck out of her glasses, but she never gave up. Our Hannah is one tough cookie! On at least two occasions during two separate games, the teams allowed her to take the ball and score. The best part is when the other team was cheering for her as she slowly kicked the ball toward the goal and celebrated with her when she reached the goal!
Mila completed kindergarten. If I had a crystal ball or a rewind button, I'd do many things different. We kept Mila back in preschool an extra year for two reasons. The main reason, developmentally and educationally, she just wasn't ready. The other reason, Hannah would be in kindergarten too. Looking back, I wish I had put them both in kindergarten together and had Mila do a second year of kindergarten when Hannah moved on to first grade. Oh well.....
God blessed us with a wonderful educational aide for Mila. Mrs. H; her "helper" as Mila calls her, absolutely adores her, and Mila LOVES her Mrs. H!!! Mila was fully included in kindergarten this year, with the help of her aide. Mila has good verbal skills, but many academic tasks had to be significantly modified for her due to her motor capabilities, grasp, and learning delay. Mila also has a stubborn streak a mile wide. (That's being nice!) If Mila doesn't want to do something, there's no making her--it doesn't matter what you bribe, threaten, dangle, or entice. It's not going to happen. We also saw a great variance in what she would show us she knew academically. Some days, she was right on. Other days, she preferred to go into her own world. All this being said, it was a team decision that Mila be advanced to first grade and spend additional time in the resource room as a first grader. Believe me, I've been on the side of the table where I'm the educator. It's three times as hard being the parent, listening to everyone step on pins and needles trying to talk nicely about your child's delay. Her kindergarten teacher was wonderful and totally gets Mila. Sadly, the state doesn't consider (and won't ever consider) that my child had three years of zero interaction and stimulation, so we're still trying to gain the ground we missed. Mila love, love LOVES her power chair and the freedom it gives her. We are totally blessed that Mrs H will be her full time aide again this fall. (This lady really merits her own blog post!)
And then there is Eli--Mr Elijah K. He's going to preschool in the fall!!! Can you believe it! He has been "our little man" for so long! Sine he is the "baby" in the family, it was easy to love him, carry him, and cuddle him. Then we took him to an early intervention group and it hit me how far behind he was compared to other children with delays. YIKES! Bad Mama, I should have been pushing him more. Though Early Intervention, he didn't qualify for any therapy services. (Grumble, groan). Now that he is going to be in a special needs preschool class, he will receive PT, OT, and Speech. Eli loves anything with wheels. He loves to roll things across the hardwood floors. He has a good number of signs and uses them readily. He is imitating many more words, and even produces many words independently. The cat is his favorite friend. (Our poor cat) I have caught myself or heard others saying the following things to Eli- "don't strangle the cat, the cat is not a mop, Eli!" "Don't body slam the cat!" "Be gentle." "Cat, if you were smart you would leave!" "Eli, don't sit on the cat!" Eli is finally walking! About three weeks ago he would take 1-4 steps, and then all of a sudden it just clicked. He is walking everywhere! He has a very wide gait, and looks much like a duck when he walks, but he's walking. (There blows the walking with the walker IEP objective!)
I finished year 13 of teaching special education. Boy, did year 13 present some great challenges! Before school started I saw an ear specialist. Last thing he said to me was "Don't wait until next summer to have surgery!" Well, I started my school year with 9 kiddos and 1 classroom aide. And then, the new students came out of the woodwork. By November, we had 14 students and 3 classroom aides. It got to the point that I couldn't spend enough time with each student daily to make a difference. I felt horribly defeated. Thankfully, my school district took a look at the numbers and split the class into two. My favorite partner in special education became "my better half". I had seven students and she had 8. Together, we waded our way through a new Alternate Assessment this winter. Then, spring arrived, and before you know it, it was the end of school. Next fall, with Mila spending more time in the resource room, I'm going to teach the older kiddos and she will have the younger kiddos. So, the school year had ended and guess who hadn't had ear surgery. I had done exactly what the doctor had told me not to do--wait. With the knowledge of two weeks post surgery with no lifting over 20 pounds, I had to wait until summer. Two kiddos at home that needed carried/transferred. One forty pound wheelchair to get in/out of the van daily for school. I am so thankful that Max stepped up and helped immensely during my two weeks after surgery!
Had I known that once I scheduled to have surgery and be out of commission for two weeks would cause Doug to have full time employment, I would have scheduled it a long time ago! Sadly, his job site right now is about 150 minutes away from home. He stays during the week rather than making the daily drive. We miss him like crazy. Every morning the girls ask if its the day Papa comes home and Eli signs "Papa", looking for him. Meal times are hairy, and manning a teenager alone is no picnic! Bath nights are the worst. Having a male teenager, he's great for carrying and lifting, but he's not so much into diapering, drying hair, or putting pajamas on his sister. Bath time takes a LONG time, and I am pooped by the time I'm finished. I said today, I'm not sure why I have a teaching degree when all I really need is a chauffeur's license. I made trips to the soccer fields twice today for double practices, Thursday one kiddo has a counselor appointment and three have Physical therapy.
There are moments in each day that I feel overwhelmed--with frustration, envy, and joy. Having three kiddos with varying special needs is a challenge. It seems there is always someone needing something--NOW. There is very little down time, and on rare occasion, I do get a minute to use the bathroom without someone following me in, but someone always seems to been on my heels, knocking on the door. There are many nights that once the kids go to bed, there are still countless things that have to be completed. Then throw a teenager into the mix. I told someone today that raising a teenager is a team sport! As we sit and pray bedtime prayers together, I am overwhelmed with joy. I am thankful that thought I am not an all-star parent, God chose me to be their Mom. God trusted me to be their Mama, and I'm trying my best daily to give them the world. I'm still learning. I'm not the best. I make mistakes. Thankfully, as I rest my head on the pillow, I thank God for my children and ask him to grant me another day to try again!