Bloggy Moms

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Letter of Thanks from a Grateful Mom

Here's the email that I sent my daughter's Special Education teacher this morning:


Good morning,
I just wanted to take a few moments to tell you how much our family appreciates you. Both my husband and I know what it takes to be an excellent teacher since I have extensive experience and he is currently teaching. 
Our daughter has been bumped around quite a few schools. She's had some bad teachers, some good teachers, but only two who I would consider fantastic. You are one of those two. 
I know that special needs parents can be quite demanding. Even so, you always make time to listen and hear us out. That says a lot about your commitment to your students. 
As you teach you will come across some amazing people: parents, teachers and administrators. You will also see some who are less than stellar. The school you're at  \has a  wonderful staff led by fabulous director. Learn from her. I can tell she has a lot of wisdom to impart. When you come across those who make you question what you do and if you are doing enough, remember that you are and that you are amazing. 
Education has a lot of ebbs and flows. Right now is a tough time to be a teacher. Stay strong. Be confident in your talents and love for your students. You are doing such an important work. You are pouring your life into our nation's future. Some of the students you teach have been tossed aside by others before you. You will pick them up and give them hope again. 
Thanks again for being my daughter's teacher. We are blessed. 

Fondly, 

Cate

As you can see we're pretty happy and know how this teacher is pretty special. Let's salute and applaud all of the amazing Special Ed teachers out there.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Amazing Thing My Daughter with Bipolar Disorder Told Me

Menopause is a real beast! In the last few months, I've found myself crying over the littlest things. Some days a simple smile will drive me to tears.  Yesterday, it was a comment that my daughter made.
I was taking her to school after a morning appointment. We were chatting about some plans that she had with her father later that evening. I remarked how much fun she'd be having going to a diner that she and I had previously gone to. She replied that I was welcome to join them. It was at this point that I felt the tiniest of tears forming on my eyelids. I told my daughter about them and how silly and stupid I felt. She reassured me by telling me that it wasn't silly or stupid. I then went on to tell her how much it meant to me to be invited to join them on their father/ daughter date.
When my daughter was so unstable, she hated me. She resented that I had quit my job to care for her. She only knew her father as her caretaker. He was the stay at home parent since I was so busy working full time.  As I drove along, I reminded her of these things. While we reflected on some very dark days in our family's history, my daughter got very quiet. Then, in what can only be called a moment of clarity and wisdom, my daughter said, "Mom I'm sorry for any physical, emotional or mental harm that I caused you in the past. I'm sorry for any scars you have on your heart that are from me. I hope that you will forgive me."
At that point, I lost it. The flood gates were opened. These very special words just came out of a 12 year old child's mouth. Who was this child? Wow! I never thought I'd ever get an apology from her. If I did, it wouldn't be for years to come.
As I heard these words, I thought of all of the moms and dads who may never get apologies from their children. Some parents of  adult children with mental illnesses are entering their twilight years. I consider these words a priceless gift.
Once I'd dried my eyes with the back of my sleeve, my daughter went on to tell me that she doesn't like thinking about the times when she was aggressive. For her they are painful memories. She knows talking about them is part of the healing process for our whole family. She explained to me that her experiences, good and bad, with mental illness; are why she wants to continue to tell our law makers about changes that need to be made in our mental health system. She said, "As long as they want me to, I will keep going to Washington, D.C. I want to let others know that it is OK to have a mental illness. I'm not a bad person. My brain was all jumbled up and confused."
Soon after this, we arrived at her school. Before exiting the car, I asked her if I could share her powerful words with others. She graciously agreed.
I understand that my daughter still has many more years under my roof. Some of those years may be very turbulent ones. For today, I will cling to the words that were music to my ears. The memory of these words may serve me well during periods of instability. They show me what my daughter's true heart's desire is. I will continue to help her advocate for herself and others like her.
Now excuse me while I get some more Kleenex.

My daughter and I on Capitol Hill in 2016

Saturday, January 7, 2017

How an IPad Was the Hero of the Day

I'm really good at managing all of my daughter's appointments and playdates. When it comes to managing our family's schedule, I sometimes fail. Yesterday, was one such day. My plan for the day included helping my daughter clean her room, doing laundry and a playdate for her in the afternoon. About 4 a.m. I woke with a start. Something in the back of my mind told me that my Knight and I had a very important meeting later that morning. I got up out of bed to check my calendar. Sure enough, the appointment was planned for the time our daughter was supposed to be at her special needs camp. Additionally, there was paperwork that we needed to fill out. 
My Knight and I had already told Princess she would not be going to camp so that meant we'd have to bring her to the meeting. As for the paperwork, I went back to bed then printed it up at a more respectable hour. 
I couldn't cancel our meeting because we'd already cancelled it earlier in the week. I didn't want to go back on my word about my daughter not having to go to camp. I knew since she'd already had three failed days there, a fourth one was inevitable. We also don't have access to a big kid sitter. I did what any mom in my situation would. I made sure the iPad was fully charged, located my daughter's blingy headphones and put all these items in her backpack along with a snack. 
While we were at the meeting, the magic iPad did its job. It cast a spell on my daughter. She was the perfect angel the entire 1 1/2 hours my Knight and I were in our meeting. Basically, it did the job of a sitter. Everyone in the office was convinced that my daughter was the more perfectly behaved child they had ever seen. 

Thanks Apple for saving the day!


Monday, December 12, 2016

5 Tips for Staying Positive During the Holidays

The other day I was talking with a dear friend. She knows that our family has had it rough this year. My daughter had a brain tumor removed earlier in the year, we made a big move as a family and have had some financial struggles as well. She wanted to know how I stay so upbeat in the midst of all of these trials. I told her that I have my moments and even days where I get sad, but that I do try to keep as positive as possible. I also shared with her these 5 tips that help me especially during the holidays when I can easily find myself in the doldrums.

1. Look for ways to help others who may not have a very Merry Christmas.
Recently, our church had an Operation Christmas Child shoebox drive. My daughter and I filled a shoebox with fun items from the Dollar Tree for a girl who might not otherwise get any presents. A local bagel shop also had ornaments on their tree with children's names and wishes written on them. We picked a little 2 year old boy. He wanted Legos and some clothes. It was super easy to find these items. We'll soon wrap them up and drop them off at the bagel shop. It helps knowing that I am teaching my daughter to make someone else's Christmas special.

2. When the worries of the world keep you up at night, count your blessings instead of sheep.
I have a lot on my mind these days. On those nights when I can't seem to fall back asleep,  it really helps to think of all of the things I am thankful for. Sometimes all I can think of are the essentials like my family's health, a roof over our heads, food, clothes and people who love me. When you get right down to it, there are so many people who don't even have these basic needs met. I am blessed indeed.

3. Look for ways to make someone's day. It could be as simple as giving a compliment to a stranger like my daughter enjoys doing. It could also mean putting spare change in the Salvation Army bucket. Sometimes it's as easy as calling a friend who might need to be cheered up. It doesn't have to cost much.

4.  Have an attitude of gratitude. Look for blessings as you go about your day. Maybe today was the day your child made it to school on time. Maybe you realized all of the people who help you make it through the day. At last count, my daughter has 15 professionals who are helping her. That means I am not alone. I have help.
I also have an alarm set on my phone. It goes off at the same time every day. It reminds me to find joy in my day every day. There are many days when I need this reminder. It's often a way for me to reset my day. One time I was so stressed out. I happened to call a lady looking for answers. In the middle of our conversation, my joy alarm went off. I told this lady the reason for the alarm and proceeded to tell her that for that day she was my joy.

5.  Make Christmas simpler if you can. For me that means that instead of buying everyone on my list gifts, I try to make a few gifts. Those gifts are made with love. Homemade gifts also stretch my dollars further. I've also found that I'm no longer wishing for that special gift. I'm too busy enjoying giving to others.

Christmas can make many people depressed. I've discovered that when I take my eyes off of my challenges, I enjoy the season a whole lot more.  I hope that you'll find one or two of my ideas helpful. Have a blessed Christmas.

My family a few years back. They bring a lot of Christmas joy to me.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Blessings Abound if You Look for Them

In the wee hours of the morning when I couldn’t sleep, (Thanks menopause.), I began to think of everything that I am thankful for. The first thing I thought of was that our house that’s closing escrow very soon. Then I shook my head and said, “No that’s not right. That’s material.” When I cam to my senses, I remembered what I am really thankful for is that the Lord spared my daughter this year. The brain tumor and even the surgery to remove it, could have ended her life. Whether my daughter is making me smile or causing more glitter strands on the top of my head, I will never take for granted that my husband and I were given the gift of her on this earth for awhile longer.
Today I’m thankful for my husband who realized his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher this year. When his first assignment left him with little time for our family, he sought out one that would be closer to home and was a better fit for his personality. He is such a good husband and father. As a child I did not have a very good role model in that department. I tell Princess all of the time that she is blessed to have a father who loves her so much. Every little girl in the world deserves a father like him.
My friends and family have been a huge support to my husband and I this year. One example of this is when Princess and I  recently visited with my older brother when we were in San Francisco for the day. He made sure that we found a restaurant that she would enjoy eating at. I assure you this was no small feat. Throughout Princess's crisis this year and after it, the outpouring of love from friends and family has been amazing. I have a few close friends who have stuck by me even when I could not be the kind of friend that they deserve. Even though I may not say it, I’m grateful for you.
I have many online friends who I may never meet. Some of these are in support groups that I belong to while others are fellow bloggers. Your encouragement to me is immeasurable. I hope that I can return the favor in some small way.
Moving to Northern CA was a much bigger task than I thought it would be. Packing up our house was huge but not as huge as starting a new life in really a foreign land to all of us. 
Now about the house, we couldn’t have asked for a better realtor. She has gone above and beyond the call of duty. She knew that our priority was moving to Northern CA so she rolled up her sleeves to put forth all of the necessary work to help us sell our house.
When we first moved up here, I knew we would need a new church. We have been blessed to find a church that loves on us. I look forward to making more connections at our new church home in the coming year.
We also needed a new school and new medical professionals for Princess. Finding the right school was a challenge. I do believe we have found one that will be perfect for our girl. I have also been working really hard to get my daughter all of her services (15 at last count.) We’ve been blessed to have found some pretty incredible people. Two of these are her OT and PT who work exclusively with children. Yesterday, Princess was able to play the Wii at therapy while strengthening her muscles.  I love the creativity of these therapists. So much fun!
Today, my Knight, Princess and I will enjoy a quiet Thanksgiving dinner together. We’ll be thinking of our loved ones near and far. We’ll also be thinking of and thankful for our Lord and Savior who bestows all of these bountiful blessings on us.

Happy Thanksgiving! 


My family and I Easter Sunday, just a few weeks before we discovered my daughter's brain tumor. 
Credit: My husband

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Effect Bullying Had on my Daughter with Special Needs



My daughter is a very sensitive child. She has a warrior inside of her, but she's still very tender. Following a recent move, I was able to see how delicate she really is. 

When school began in September, our new school district assigned her to a school they had just opened up. It was a school for children like my daughter or so they said. We soon found out that most of the children attending it had more severe behaviors than my daughter. They were very aggressive and hostile. After a few weeks at this school, my daughter began showing signs of distress not unlike those of a child being bullied. I advocated on my child's behalf, but to no avail. I really felt like my words were falling on deaf ears.

My daughter has a lot of needs both medical and behavioral. I often have to pick her up early from school or drop her off late due to her various appointments. On an early pick up day, a school administrator brought my child to the office. He informed me that Princess had been hit in the nose with a pencil. She was so distressed by the incident, that she missed over an hour of instruction while she calmed down. I asked questions to find out more details. I was told very little as no one saw anything.

Additionally,  on numerous other occasions daughter also told me that she felt threatened by several of the boys in her class. They called her nasty names and used racial slurs. She tried to inform the staff as to what was happening, however, they were often breaking up fights in the classroom or campus so they were not able to help her out. 

The Friday following the pencil incident, I pulled my daughter out of the school. That Monday I attended an emergency IEP meeting to make my request formal. The school district and school agreed this placement was not a good fit for my daughter. I've been working with the school district ever since to find a more suitable school. I believe I've found one, however, they are not ready to accept my child. They want to make sure everything is in place before she starts there.

In the meantime, my daughter has been through intensive therapy to help her deal with what she encountered at her previous school. Most days she has been doing extremely well. There are days though where she doesn't know what to do with all of her emotions.

Last week, we were in the car returning home from an appointment when I noticed she was angry with me for what appeared to be no reason. So I asked her about it.:

Me: I don't understand why you are upset with me. We've had such a good day. Have I done something to make you angry?
Princess: I feel like I am with you all of the time. I wish there was someone else I could talk to.
Me: Well you will see you dad soon and you can talk to your therapist tomorrow. I feel like there is something else.
Princess: I don't know how to say it without making you mad.
Me: Just say it.
Princess: I'm scared. What if all of the boys at my new school are mean? What if they treat me like the boys treated me at my old school?
Me: Well, when we toured the school, they seemed really nice and friendly.
Princess: What if that was just fake? What if they are really mean on the inside? (At this point the tears started flowing)
Me: Oh, baby! I'm so sorry you feel this way. I do think that this new school has a caring staff who won't let that happen. They told me they have a plan in place so you won't get bullied.
Princess: Mom?
Me: Yes.
Princess: I think I need a hug. Could you pull the car over and give me a hug?

At that point, I pulled into a neighborhood, stopped in front of a cute house with a basketball hoop and got out to give my daughter the longest hug in awhile. We both cried together. She cried because she was scared and relieved. I cried because my girl was so sad. My heart ached for her.

After our crying party ended, as I got in the car, I told my girl how proud I was of her for expressing her feelings. I also told her that I now know that when she is anxious and stressed, she displays anger. This knowledge can help us in the future.

As I work with my daughter's team to help her become emotionally strong, I hope and pray that she never has to endure what she went through this September. I believe the school she attended for just a few short weeks was ill equipped to handle her needs. In some respects, they did try to help. Unfortunately, it was not enough. When I first brought my concerns to their attention,  denied that anything was wrong. I kept trying to figure out a solution until it became apparent that the solution was to pull my child out of that school.

In all of this I have learned that my daughter will survive. In fact, I think she'll come out being a stronger person.

As I drove off on that day not too long ago, I reminded Princess that not all boys are mean. Not all boys are bullies. Her BFF, pictured below, is one of the nicest boys. We're pleased to have him (and his family) in our lives.


Princess and her best friend two years ago

Friday, October 7, 2016

Inclusion Isn't For Every Child, But It Should Be

Yep, I said it. I am not in favor of inclusion for my child. I know there are many parents who feel just the opposite of me. They want their child to be loved and accepted for who they are. Their desire is that other typically developing children embrace their loved one. I'll be the first to admit that I too wanted that for my daughter at one time. I still do, but at a different level. My husband and I tried for years to make our child fit into the round hole of public school. Heck, even private school, if we'd had the money, would have been something we desired. The truth of the matter is that is never going to happen.
My daughter, who I love and adore to pieces, is quirky. All of her challenges: autism, bipolar disorder, ADHD, OCD and sensory processing disorder; make her stand out among other children her age. I've worked really hard to teach my daughter how to behave so she doesn't stand out, so she fits in. The only problem is she doesn't see the importance of fitting in. It's too hard for her. I know other educators and professionals have worked with her on this as well. She gets frustrated when we work on changing her before she's ready.
Her peers for their part, are not being taught to love and accept my daughter where she is at. It's just not something that parents and educators typically teach those without challenges. Sure they are taught to not look at the skin color, cultural differences or even those with outward signs of disabilities. My daughter doesn't look different than her peers. She certainly acts differently though.
When we've pushed her to make the changes she is not ready for, she shuts down. It affects every part of her life from school to home to church.
Since 4th grade my daughter has attended a school where there are children like her.  It's the norm rather than the exception. She's still the quirkiest one in the bunch, but she is loved and accepted for her differences. The staff at the school are trained on how to nurture her strengths.
The only place where I place my daughter alongside he typically developing peers is at church. Even there, the other kids tolerate her. I don't get the sense that they are truly accepting her. No one goes out of their way to include my girl. I've never seen one of them invite her over to join in on the fun. There is a disconnect. I tell my daughter to look for opportunities to be a part of a group. Ask someone their name etc. Yet time and time again, I don't see this being reciprocated with her peers. I've never witnessed a child inviting my child to play a game or join in on a conversation. It's too difficult and uncomfortable for them. Maybe my daughter isn't the only one who needs to be pushed out of her comfort zone.
Parents of typically developing children tell me how this is such a difficult age for all kids. They are all struggling to find their place.  That I need to be more understanding.
On the rare occasion where my child is included and made to feel welcome, it happens because there is either a sibling of a special needs child present or a parent of a special needs child facilitated it.
In the past when my child attended a public school or even participated in an extra curricular activity aimed for mainstream children, things often ended poorly. She spent her days crying in class. I was constantly being spoken to by the adults in charge. It seemed like my daughter and I were the ones who needed to change. I was told  that I needed to teach my child how to belong. How to act like everyone else. What if instead mainstream parents and adults taught children to look for those who didn't fit in? Those on the outside of the circle would be a rare sighting.  As a society, we have a long way to go before all differences are embraced. I'm reminded that it's been over fifty years since Rosa Parks started the civil rights movement.  All these years later,  society still has a way to go before people of color are accepted everywhere. As far as acceptance for those whose differences are not as evident, I'm in this battle for all for the long haul. My daughter is counting on me.
For now, the only inclusion that I'm pushing for is at our church. One day, things will change.  I believe society is capable of it.