I Can See Clearly Now

 

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I’ve been having trouble reading medicine bottles.  Let’s see…..how many teaspoons do our two turtles need to make the snot go away?  Hmmm….I have no idea.  Better find a teenager who can read the label to me.  I’ve stood in the medicine aisle at Walmart, pretended that I could read the label, and tossed medicine into my cart.  My world was becoming fuzzy.

I went to the eye doctor and the verdict was as I expected.  I needed bifocals.  The first day I wore them, I almost lost my mind.  The world suddenly had this crazy line through the middle of it. That line was my enemy.  I fought with that line for a couple of weeks, but it eventually became my friend because it was the reason that I could read again.

What would my life be like if my optometrist hadn’t been able to fix the problem? What if I had to spend the rest of my life not able to read medicine bottles? or newspapers? or books?  I suddenly realized how Mikayla & Hope might have been feeling about learning to read.

Reading has been extremely difficult for the girls.  They learned all of the letters and all of the letter sounds when they were 6 years old.  We’ve tried 3 different phonics programs over the last 3 years and none of them have helped. They can’t process all of the sounds and put them together to read a word. Phonics was not the right prescription to help them learn to read.

The professional who tested the girls last year told me to forget the phonics and focus on sight words. Sight words make up about 65 to 85 percent of any general text.  So, I decided to take her advice and focus on sight words.  I googled sight words and the heavens opened up.  The word SnapWords came up.  What are SnapWords?

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As I started reading the SnapWords website, I was blown away.  It said that visual learners think in pictures.  They have trouble understanding language unless there is a picture involved.  With SnapWords the whole word is captured as a picture.  Could this be the answer that I’ve been looking for?  Our girls are visual learners and phonics has been a nightmare.  So I decided to give SnapWords a try.

We started with 6 words.  Within a few days, they knew all of them.  We reviewed the words for 2 weeks before I added more words.   I’ve learned that slow and steady works best with them.  It’s not a good idea to move too quickly.  After I was sure they knew the first 6 words, I added 6 more words. They know 18 words when I show them the picture side of the card.   They know half of the words when I show them the backside of the card which has the word without a picture. SnapWords is the prescription that they needed to learn how to read.

Phonics made our girls world fuzzy and they made no progress.  Phonics magnified their auditory processing weakness.  When we changed the focus to sight words they began to make progress. SnapWords have magnified their visual processing strength.  As we have focused on their strength, they have begun to experience success.   The girls have never asked me to pull a phonics program out of the closet.  But they ask for SnapWords.  They avoid things that make them feel like a failure and they want to do the things that make them feel like a success.  Isn’t that the way that most of us are?

I can’t help but wonder if the girls feel as relieved as I did when I got my bifocals.  Are they thinking the same thing that I was thinking?  I can see clearly now.  I couldn’t read but now I can!

 

 

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Waiting for Something Awesome to Happen

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Could my gift for high school graduation be a trip to see the ocean?

Why-oh-why did Taylor have to ask that question? My heart was saying “Yes…we’ll take you to the ocean!” but my mind was saying “There’s no way we can drive all the way to the ocean with Mikayla & Hope.”  The beach is 10 hours from our home. Mikayla & Hope sometimes can’t handle the 2 hour trip to church and back.  How in the world can we make a 10 hour trip and all of us live through it?

How can we tell Taylor no?  She’s never asked for much and this is her dream.  How can we tell her yes?  How can we take that kind of risk? What if we are 10 hours from home and Mikayla & Hope totally freak out because we’re not adhering to the usual routine?  What if they are miserable and they make the rest of us miserable?  What if we spend all that money and have a horrible time? The list of thoughts just went on and on and on.

On a Wednesday night, our pastor was talking about risk.  He said that the definition of risk is “the possibility that something bad or unpleasant will happen.”  Then he asked a question that I will never forget. If risk means that there is a chance that something bad is going to happen then can risk also mean that there is a chance that something good is going to happen? Then he shared his new definition of risk.  Risk is the possibility that something awesome is going to happen.

And there I sat with my mouth hanging open.  Risk is the possibility that something awesome is going to happen?  Well, that totally changes my thinking about taking a trip to the ocean.  My mind began to think different questions.  What if we have a great trip to the ocean?  What if Mikayla and  Hope don’t have a single meltdown while we’re gone?  What if all 4 of the girls smile so much and are so happy that we just can’t stand it?  What if I actually get to relax and enjoy myself?  What if we have the time of our life?

I told Brett that I felt like we needed to take Taylor to the ocean.  She’s 18 years old.  How many more years will she live with us?  I don’t want to one day wish that we had taken her to the ocean.  I don’t want to ever look back and regret that we didn’t make our daughter’s dream come true.

Today was the day that Brett and I took a risk.  He called and made the reservation.  I wrote the check and he dropped it in the mail on his way to work.  And now we wait for something awesome to happen.

The Ups, the Downs, and Chocolate Ice Cream

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I don’t like roller coasters.  The ups aren’t so bad, but the downs make me feel like the world is falling out from under me. When we were first married, Brett and I got on a roller coaster.  I got the surprise of my life when the thing went upside down. I was irritated because he didn’t warn me that it was going to go upside down. My irritation quickly subsided when I realized he had no idea either.  I made a choice that day to never get on a roller coaster ever again.
But the truth is that I often feel as if I’m on a roller coaster even though I’m not physically on one. Something as simple as leaving the house and going to a doctor’s appointment can turn into a roller coaster ride.  Things can start out fine and then all of a sudden I find myself upside down and trapped on a ride that I can’t to get off of.
It was the dreaded day of eye doctor appointments for our two turtles.  Will they be well-behaved? Will I have to make a hasty exit because one or both of them have a meltdown? Will they talk nonstop at full volume? Will everyone in the waiting room be staring at us?
The girls hardly talked during the 30 minute ride and they stood quietly while I was registering.  Filling out two sets of forms is always a good time. I was able to fill out the papers in record time even though Mikayla kept sneezing and I kept pulling kleenex out of my purse.  The girls did great with the doctor even though they had never met him.  They read every letter and he said they both had great eye sight. Wow!  This is really going smoothly.  I wonder if we’ll make it out to the parking lot without an incident.
We paid and they each got a piece of candy.  Just one more thing before we go.  I needed to have my glasses adjusted. The girls sat quietly the entire time that the lady was adjusting my glasses. Neither one of them said a word.  This is the most amazing day of my life!  We’re going to get out of here without making a scene. Unbelievable!
Our van floated the whole way home because I was on cloud nine.  I felt like a normal mom with a normal family.  It was a dream come true.  I was afraid we were going to spend the morning riding a roller coaster but instead we got to ride a cute little merry-go-round.
An hour after we got home,  I found myself suddenly riding a roller coaster.  Time to strap on my seat belt because I’ll be upside down before the day is over.  The girls both started talking and they talked nonstop at full volume all afternoon.  They started arguing and they argued all afternoon.  They were grouchy and demanding and they yelled the words Mommy and Daddy a thousand times. The roller coaster just kept going upside down over and over and over again and I ended up with a really bad headache.
Brett got to get off the roller coaster and go to work, but I had to keep riding it. My head continued to pound throughout the evening.  I decided that I was going to have to get off the roller coaster even though it wasn’t quite time for the amusement park to close.  My handsome husband had taken our taxes to town earlier in the day.  While he was in town he bought a gallon of chocolate ice cream.  Oh, how I love that man.  I got off the roller coaster, made myself a bowl of ice cream, and put myself in time out in our bedroom.  It’s always a good idea to eat some chocolate after riding a roller coaster for 7 hours. It’s good for the nerves.
At 8:30 p.m it was time to shut the roller coaster down and close the amusement park.  All riders must brush their teeth and get in their beds.  As I tucked them in and kissed them goodnight, they both said “I love you Mommy!” They were so stinking cute that I couldn’t help but smile.  I told them “I love you too!” and I kissed their sweet little heads.
I hoped that the next day would be filled with merry-go-round rides and I would get to take a break from the roller coaster. Unfortunately, I rode the roller coaster for 5 consecutive days and I had a headache for 5 consecutive days.  By bedtime of the 5th night, I was a mess.  I felt exhausted, shaky, irritable, and impatient.  I said some things that I shouldn’t have said.  I was so frustrated that I cried in front of them.
I went to my room, closed the door, and cried my eyes out.  I felt like the worst mom who has ever walked the planet.  I said a quick little short prayer that went something like “God, I don’t know where You are, but it would be really nice if You would show up soon.”  All of a sudden I heard a little knock on my door.  I said “Who is it?” and a little voice said “Mikayla”.  I opened the door and she looked up at me and said “I forgive you.  I love you!” and then she hugged me.  The tears suddenly left and I was laughing. I told her I was sorry even though she had already forgiven me.  We hugged again and went to bed.
I woke up the next morning and I still felt like the worst mom in the world.  It’s hard to understand why our victory at the eye doctor’s office would be followed by 5 days of defeat.  It seems like every time we think we’re making progress with the behavioral issues we end up having a major setback.  After this 5 day ordeal, I uttered the words “I can’t do this any more.”  I honestly didn’t think I could possibly face one more day.
As I was driving Brynna to dance class this week God showed up.  I was listening to a song called Good Shepherd.
You will lift my head above the mighty waves
You are able to keep me from stumbling
And in my weakness
you are the strength that comes from within
Good shepherd of my soul
Take my hand and lead me on
My eyes were on the waves and the waves kept knocking me down.  My eyes were on the behavioral problems, the arguing, and my failures as a mom.  As I listened to this song I realized that God wants to lift my head above the waves.  He wants me to look at Him instead of at the problems.  In my weakness He is the strength that comes from within.   I can continue to ride the roller coaster and I can be strong if I invite Him to ride along with me.  I stumbled and I really messed up with my girls that night. But God took my hand and He helped me back up. The reward at the end of every roller coaster ride is two little girls that say the words “I love you, Mommy.”  All the upside-down crazy rides that I’ve been on are worth it when I hear those words at the end of every day.
Oh….and the amusement park will be closed on Valentine’s Day.  My handsome man is taking me away for the day.  Say a prayer for grandma.  I hope she gets to ride the merry-go-round instead of the roller coaster.

 

How Can It Be? Our Baby’s 18!

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18 years ago today I held her for the very first time.  She had her Daddy’s eyes and a full head of dark hair. She was perfect in every way.
Life with Taylor has always been an adventure.  She was in a breech position and I was scheduled for a c-section on February 11th.  At 11 p.m. on the 10th, I went to brush my teeth and my water broke. Apparently, Taylor didn’t get the memo that labor was not on my list of things to do. Surprise!
Taylor Nicole entered the world on February 11th, 1997 at 3:52 a.m.  She came on the right day just the wrong time. She just couldn’t wait for the scheduled c-section at 10 a.m.  She thought it would be more fun for me to experience a few hours of labor and then have a surprise c-section at 3:52 a.m. She’s so funny.
I would sit in my chair and hold her and wish she could stay little forever.  But she started crawling and then walking, and then running.  We blinked and all of a sudden she was a year old. We blinked again and she was 2 years old.  I smile when I think about our little girl sitting on a Little Mermaid bean bag, holding a Little Mermaid doll, and watching the Little Mermaid movie.  I see a little girl dressed up in a Tigger costume bouncing to the back door to greet her Daddy when he came home from work.  She was our whole world.
Every time Taylor finishes a new painting I’m so thankful that I signed her up for art lessons when she was only 6 years old. When she was 8 years old she heard the Eden String Quartet for the first time at a father-daughter dinner. Her eyes lit up every time she talked about the violin. We had no choice but to find a violin teacher.  When her eyes light up, we just can’t say no.  I’m so thankful for the paintings on our walls and the sound of violin music that fills our home.
Here we are today celebrating our little girl’s 18th birthday.  Oh, how I wish I could push a rewind button and do it all over again.  She has been a joy since day one.  I’m so thankful for the 18 years that we have had her in our life.  I look forward to all the years ahead. I know that God has a great future for our Taylor. Happy Birthday, Taylor!  We love you!

Successes That Make Me Smile

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Educational success is often measured by a single letter grade on a piece of paper.  An “A” means you succeeded.   An “F” means you failed.  I believe letter grades can be helpful, but I don’t believe that they give a full picture of a students abilities.   Kids who are auditory learners thrive in a school setting. Kids who are hands-on learners and life learners will often struggle in a typical school setting.

I’m an auditory learner.  If I heard the teacher say it and I took notes, I could usually remember it.  I was also very good at memorizing, so I got A’s and B’s in school.  But I’ll never forget the day that I got an F.

It happened in 7th grade science class.  The teacher made us dissect a frog.  I was totally mortified. What 12- year-old girl enjoys a dead frog mixed with the smell of formaldehyde?  Definitely not this one.   I can still smell that frog smell as I’m typing this.  I suddenly feel nauseous.

The frog test was one of the worst days of my life.  There were several stations and each station had a different frog. There was a pin in a part of the frog’s body and we had to write down the name of that body part.  As if identifying the parts of a dead frog wasn’t bad enough, it got worse.  We only had 20 seconds at each station.  I didn’t have a good feeling about this test.  I don’t like dead critters and I freak out when I’m under any time pressure.

None of the test frogs looked anything like the frog that my lab partner had dissected.  The smell of formaldehyde mixed with the time pressure I was under made me go brain-dead.  I only got one answer correct on the test.  I correctly identified fat bodies.  It was the worst day of my life.

I remember something else about that day.  There was a boy in the class who was known for his failing grades.  The heavens opened up for him that day and he received an A+.  It just didn’t make any sense.

Now that I know a little about learning styles, it makes complete sense.  The boy who got an A+ that day was a hands-on learner.  He was learning as he cut up his frog.  He thrived in a hands-on learning environment and he aced the frog test.  I was an auditory learner who didn’t adjust well to the hands-on learning approach.  Maybe it would have helped if I had actually touched the frog.  I didn’t enjoy one second of the hands-on learning that I was exposed to and I failed the test.  I was so relieved to go back to the teacher just talking and me taking notes. It was a world that I understood.  The boy who got the A+ was probably wishing he could stay in the world of hands-on learning.  He was successful in that world.  But he was thrown back into the auditory learning world.  He probably didn’t enjoy one minute of having to sit and listen to the teacher talk.  If he could have learned with a hands-on activity every day, his report card would have looked a lot different.  Learning styles matter.

Our twin girls are life learners.  They learn best from experiencing and observing life.  We have chosen to home school our girls.  They struggle with auditory processing and handwriting, which are two of the key ingredients of traditional school.  They excel with visual computer programs, sight words, and hands-on activities.  By teaching them at home, I am able to teach to their strengths.  We spend most of our time working on the computer and doing hands-on activities.   We also work everyday on their weak areas of auditory skills and handwriting.  We need to strengthen those weak areas, but I don’t put all of our focus on the weaknesses.  Focusing on weakness only leads to frustration.   The psychologist who tested the girls last year said that she believes that we have made the right choice by choosing to home school the girls.  It was the first time that a professional has ever told us we are doing the right thing.  It was music to my ears.

One thing I’ve learned in our special journey with the girls is that success is not about a grade on a piece of paper. Success is when they can suddenly do something that they once couldn’t do.

These are the successes that make me smile:

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Mikayla puts her shoes under her bed without being reminded.

Hope puts her towel in the hamper without being reminded.

Hope writes an absolutely perfect letter “P” for her occupational therapist.

They get an “A” on their progress report at Easter Seals.  “A” means that they achieved a goal.

They say spider instead of pider, sticker instead of ticker, and speech class instead of peech cwass.

They put their shoes and socks on without any help.

Mikayla stands quietly and doesn’t interrupt when I’m talking to her speech therapist.

Hope turned around and quietly walked away when I told her no.   She didn’t stomp her foot and demand that I change my mind. 

Those successes might not sound like much to some parents.  But let me tell you, they are huge successes.  When Hope’s occupational therapist showed me the letter “P” that she wrote this week, I didn’t know whether to cry or jump for joy.  It was one of the biggest victories we’ve ever had.  It took daily practice for years for her to be able to write a perfect letter “P”.  She persevered even though writing is one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do.   I walked away looking like the proudest mommy you ever did see.  We came out of therapy, I got in the van, and I told my husband that Hope had made the prettiest “P” that I had ever seen in my life.  In my excitement, I didn’t realize that sentence sounds a little funny when he had no idea that I was talking about handwriting.  Oops.

Mikayla stood quietly and didn’t interrupt when I was talking to her speech therapist.  She is starting to show self-control, which is extremely hard for her.  It was a complete miracle that she was able to remain quiet for as long as she did.  I was bursting with pride.

I’m constantly reminding the girls to put away their shoes, put their towel in the hamper, put the “s” on the beginning of words, and not to interrupt when people are talking.  I get so weary of having to give constant reminders.  But now I’m seeing that my constant reminders are starting to pay off.

Success is when I finds towels in the hamper instead of on the floor.  Success is when I find shoes under a bed instead of in the kitchen.  Success is when a little girl writes the letter “P” and then she grins because she knows that she did a good job.  Success is when a little girl doesn’t interrupt a conversation.  Success is when a little girl says the word spider instead of pider.   I see the broken pieces of our girls lives every day.  Now I’m beginning to see the beauty that comes when the broken pieces are put together.  And it makes me smile.