Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Brighter Days

When was the last time you felt like a kid?

Like you were ready to take on the world.  Like you had so much energy that you had to roll in the snow to let some of it out.  Like you were carefree, full of laughter and longing to spread joy.

Brady P. is like this everyday that I am in a good mood. 

I was like this last week after I crawled my way out of being crushed emotionally.

Brief recap:

     Amanda recently finds herself in a situation where she thinks she is going to die.  She survives.  But she lives paralyzed in fear.  She cannot eat or sleep.  
     Grammy comes to save her and Brady P. from being alone, so the situation cannot happen again.  Grammy brings Amanda and Brady P. home to Wisconsin where Brady P. can be in good care of Grammy and Grampy while Amanda hibernates in order to heal.  
     Amanda cries.  She bawls.  She curses.  She journals.  She lets it all (well, at least as much as possible for now) out.  Then she meditates three times a day.  She focuses on peace.  On strength. On overcoming.  On brighter days.  
     Luckily, Amanda is in a quiet place in the woods, so she has no other demands placed on her besides the one to overcome trauma.

And she did.

Alleluia!

Okay, back to first person.  I just wanted to remove myself a bit from that story, so it wouldn't be so emotional.  You don't need my drama in your life.

But I do want you to see my salvation.  Because after that week of purging fear, anger, grief, sadness and guilt, I could find myself again.

Those emotions are not part of who I am.  I am strong, upbeat, friendly, caring and positive.  I must move forward, and I must forgive.

When I was able to do all that, I quite literally became a kid again.  I couldn't wait to play with Brady P.  I sledded more than the little kids every chance I got.  I skipped and bounced and laughed and sang.  

I felt light again.

A lightness in my physical being, my emotions and even in the things I looked at.  I was so grateful because I could have been stuck in that dark, scared, depressing place in my mind for, well, forever.

But I knew that is not me.  That is not who I would let myself become because of someone else's actions.  I am a warrior, and I am here to help save the world.  

Thank goodness I can save myself.

Now, I'm not going to preach to you about any of this, but I certainly want you to see from my experience how the power of positivity, meditation, doing the work and having a supportive and safe place to stay while you are healing or trying to achieve a goal in life are quite necessary.  I could not have done it in a week's time without any of these elements.

Thank you to everyone who has offered me support.  Brady P. and I are stronger and wiser because of it.

And as proof that we are doing well, here is a video that my Daddio took on a sledding walk at the Rogers one day.  It is the first video I have edited in years.  It's simple, but sweet.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Big Dumps

Hey.

For the sake of emotional integrity, I am going to be surface level and brief today.

We just got (according to my measurement) 16 inches of heavy snow.  It was a great workout to move it.  And just before I was done, somebody decided that shoveling looked fun.

So I gave him a pint-sized shovel, and he helped me finish.  What a proud little man.

Mama's little shoveler

See you next week once things settle a bit.  In the meantime, be true to yourself.  You deserve it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

And so it's a new year.

Maybe that doesn't mean much to you, but here at the Vitality household, we all have things to work on.  Can't save the world if we can't save ourselves, right?

We are also working on Brady P.

He wants to be a big boy.

One of the things he is doing so well already is at the dinner table.  Often times, we are in and out, and eating a meal together seems impossible.  But once we started doing dinner more often as a family, we saw big progress.

Braeden loves to eat what we eat.  He even ate all of his bean salad yesterday.  With a fork.  I was so proud that tears welled in my eyes.

He is clearing his plate of food we make.  With a fork.  We are still working on the stabbing technique, but I can tell he is as proud as we are.  So kudos to eating dinner together.

He is wearing big boy underwear.

Okay.  Not all the time, but we give him a few hours in the evening to keep his superhero underwear dry for as long as possible and encourage him to pee on the potty between activities.

Sometimes it's already too late.

But if we all stay positive and encouraging, he will get there.  We believe that it's hard for him to recognize, let alone control the feeling of peeing.  That's part of the hypotonia in his muscles that comes with Down syndrome.  His muscles hang loose until he uses them.

But when he uses them, watch out.  He is strong.

We are also really practicing speech.  

Enunciation. 

Getting those sounds right.  We encourage him to use his words, but then he is not comprehendible to other people.  How embarrassing for all parties involved.

He wants to use his words.  Especially with our new dog, Missy.

"Missy, down!" he will shout to her when she jumps onto his trampoline with him.

It sounds like "Biggy, gum!" but I smile to myself because I am proud that he tries.

And now we are drilling it.  There are certain sounds like 'f,' 's,' 'o' and 'z' that we can probably nail in the next few weeks if we keep at it.  The more we pay attention to what he can already do, the more we can play off his skills to improve on them.

I'm really excited and hopeful about this.  As long as we play animal games and read animal books, we'll have plenty of words to say that will keep him interested.

Want to know one thing that is helping?  His new glasses.

A spectacle in his specs

Yup.  His attention span for reading and writing has improved because he can actually see what he is looking at more clearly.  And he doesn't turn his head to read out of the side of his eye.  Or touch his nose to the book.

Little man.

We are so proud of him.

Here's to a progressive new year to us all!

*If you like pictures of snowflakes and frost, check out the new prints at the Vitality shop!  For the next week we're running a sale: ALL orders ship for free and any order of $20 or more gets 20% off with coupon code NEWYEAR.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Happy Winter!

Hey! Happy holidays to you and yours. See you next year!
Happy winter from our little family!

By the way, the snow is coming down in piles out there!  It finally feels like winter in the U.P.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Game On!

As children grow and develop, their toys change.  The baby who was once thoroughly entertained by a hanging mobile and a squeaky toy learned to love dolls and trucks.

Okay, well, Brady P. was really never into dolls or trucks.  He moved on to puzzles, anything that played music and animals.

But now he is at a different stage.  A rather fun one that takes more of my (and other people's) time in order for him to play.

Games.

The first game I remember playing with him was the Memory game.  You know, a bunch of cardboard squares that you flip over then have to find the match by remembering where the heck you saw it last.

Our memory game was made from animal drawings by Charlie Harper.  Braeden already loved animals and Charlie's art, so I figure, why not.

Braeden was about three when we first started.  I didn't have very high expectations for his level of performance.  I didn't really know how much he understood because he didn't really talk.  And a few months before, when we tried it for the very first time, it was pretty useless.

So back on the shelf it went.

But during this second try, I was stunned.  He understood the concept of taking turns.  We worked on that in other ways before hand, so I wasn't too surprised about it, but it was apparent.

His slight OCD of feng shuiness made him excellent at putting the cards that were not a match back to the exact same place he got them from, and even making sure they were straight.  I don't even do that.

The smoothness at which we played the game was pretty effortless.  I think that he wanted to play the game so much that he made that extra effort to follow the rules, pay attention and keep it neat.

So we play again and again.  It's one of his favorite games.  But can I tell you the biggest surprise of all?

He is awesome at it.  

As in, he can beat me.

We started off putting all the matches into one pile, so nobody felt sad about losing.  But now, he keeps his pile and I keep mine.

I kid you not.  He usually wins or ties me.  He remembers where the monkey was from a couple turns ago when I had forgotten.  He hastily finds both ladybugs after I just guessed wrong.

The boy has a photographic memory.

I'm glad I like that game too because he makes me play it almost every day.

Then one day at speech therapy, Miss Dawn had the "Let's go Fishing" game, and he really enjoyed pulling the fish out of the "pond" with his finger.

Well, Nana Mary thought he should have that game at home, so she got it for him the next day.  I mean, that's what grandparents do.

Now this game has a pole that the player holds as the "hook" is supposed to make it into the mouths of the fish as the whole pond spins and the fish open and close their mouths.

Oh me of little faith.  I didn't think he'd be very good at it.

I was wrong.

Now I can't say he was as good as Nana (who taught me to fish in real life when I was a little girl), but he was doing really well.

Concentrating on the next fish

With a little carefulness and patience, he learned how to pull the fish out without dropping them back into the pond.  Just awesome for his find motor skills.

Also, on a daily basis, he wants to play this game too.

So I have observed that he loves games.  He is really good at following rules.  He loves to be challenged.  He loves to play with another person.

And, over all, these games are really good for his fine motor skills, his patience, his concentration, his attention span, his learning and his amazing photographic memory.

I am really excited to visit the toy aisle this year, because that good little boy is going to get some new games under the Christmas tree.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Sir Slips-a-Lot

We don't have a lot of snow right now.

But we have had some nice, smooth frozen puddles -- perfect for sliding on.

I've been trying to teach Braeden the different textures of the ground the past couple winters.  

Snow, ice and dry road.

I know I've mentioned that before, but he has a new affinity for the ice.

He knows that it makes him fall down, and it's hard to get back up.  So he flounders.  He pretends to not be able to get up at all, actually.

It's hilarious for us both.

He just giggles and cracks up as he spins around and around on the ice.  Flipping over and squealing. 

I haven't been lucky enough to capture this ice capade on video, but I did record the time that started it all.

That time he came inside the house after walking through the snow in his cowboy boots.  He had some snow caked on the soles, so he instantly slipped on the wooden floor.

And he couldn't get up.

My biggest regret about this video is that I was laughing too loud and I overpowered his laugh -- one of the cutest sounds on the planet.

But I will say no more about the scene, so you can watch for yourself.



Well, I just wanted to make you smile today. I hope it worked!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Most Wonderful Time

Hey!

All is well in the Harbor.

In fact, it's a pretty unique time of year.  It's that time between hunting and snowmobile season where nobody else is here.  For the last couple days, I knew 98% of the people that drove by as we toddled or sledded along Highway 41.

We just wave to everyone, just in case.

It's quite whimsical.  I thought that places like this only existed in movies. Places so small everybody knows everybody -- and nobody else is around!

Pretty unique indeed.  I love it.

It's also that time when Captain Don and his crew (or, often just Captain Don) spend hours untangling lights, making decorations and standing trees around the park.  It looks great so far, but if you want to see it in its final glory, come up to Winter Wonderfest 2018!  

It's happening in Copper Harbor on Saturday, December 15th from 10-6pm.  The craft show, bake sale, crafts... and maybe even Santa are at the Mariner  North.  

Then, at 6pm sharp (unless Don has a lot to say about the park), we light it up!  Don't tell anyone, but there will probably be fireworks too.  Organized and safe, of course.

We're even getting festive at our house!  My honey pie and I harvested a tree, made some decorations and lit it up.  Our stockings are hung over the back window with care, or, um, thumb tacks.  And we try to exchange gifts once a week.

Brady P. is into it.  He's a little too much into the lights on the tree, but he will learn.  Some year.

And the fluffy snowflakes make it seem all festive out there.  The big lake is still open wide.

I feel fortunate to live in such a magical place.

A true winter wonderland.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Special Opportunity for You!

I've been busy.

Remember those wildflower close-ups I teased you with this summer?

Well, I finally got them on my website.  Yes, siree.

A portion of the UP Close collection!

But I am only telling you about it.  I want you, my dedicated blog reader, to be the first to know about it.  Please don't share this information publicly until I am ready.

Here's why.

I have a limited number of each print, and I want you to get dibs.  Sure, I'll produce more in the future, but it's crunch time before Christmas, and I want to make sure you have the opportunity to have one under your tree, if you so desire.

But with that said, please remember that I do really just have a few of each.  I don't expect a mad rush of online sales, but if things get busy, I'll have to get more materials.

Please remain patient with me.

Okay.  Ready for some eye candy?

Check it out at www.CopperHarborVitality.com!

I'm so excited!!!

If you do find any hiccups, do let me know.  I will work to get things corrected as soon as possible.

As far as life goes, all is well in the Harbor!  It's so quiet this time of year.  A time to truly kick back in the peace and quiet of this little town.

Brady P. says "Hi!"

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The "Path" to School

I like to keep life fun.

Like each day when Brady P. goes to school.

I pull him in the sled.  The little red sled.

You'll have to imagine how cute he is all bundled up in his blue snow suit with his football hat and snowflake scarf on with his shark backpack in the front by his feet because I did not get a picture before he left for Thanksgiving break.

But he is stinkin' cute.

So here's the fun part for me.

I've been making a path.  

We take the same way every time, so I can get a little trail panked in the snow. 

If we are in a hurry to get to school (and we often are!), I'll pull him along the snow-covered road, so I can fling him in front of me as I run.  As his sled slows down, I make a ninja sound before I give him another yank in front of me, so he knows to hang on tight.

It's pretty fun.  He loves it.  

And when I laboriously hoof it up the driveway to the school, he shouts "Alalalala!" with his mittened index finger thrusted into the air like the leader of a brigade instructing his troops to commence forth with speed and force.  

He just wants me to go faster.

I laugh at the monster I created and tease him because, hey, I'm going uphill!  Who does he think I am, Super Mom?

Wink.

On the way home, we have more time, so we take the fun way.  

The "path."

I only quote the word path because once it snows or the wind blows, we are essentially starting over.  But I have not lost sight of the path yet.

We skirt down around the school building, and he has to hang on tight because the ground is so uneven that he often tips over right there.  He is learning to lean, though.

Then we follow the level path that traverses the playground.  The part I love most about that is how we cross the sled marks from recess that day.  

Sledding at recess.  What a cool place to go to school.  

Then we wind around the fence area, which is also off kilter from the swirling snow.  But he does a good job hanging on there.

After another public driveway, we enter the park.

Last week or two, a big UPPCO truck drove into the park.  They used the boom to put Christmas lights on the tall cedar trees.  I just follow the tracks the tires made as our path to cut across the park to the sidewalk around the community building.

From there we slide next to the sidewalk because it is shoveled pretty well, and sleds don't slide on cement.

Sometimes we'll stop in to the post office to check the mail.  

Then it's off to cross the street and carry on along the road in front of The Pines Resort until we get to our driveway.

It's really a lovely time.  I love the workout and Brady P. likes the ride.  When we take the sled out for a walk around town, he likes to pull the sled himself.

Then I get to shout, "Alalalala!"

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

How to Advocate

Being the parent of a child with "special needs" is, well, different.  And special.

Today I'm going to talk a little bit about what we have experienced within the education system because it can be challenging.  

My goal is to inform the mainstream public, who may never  have to think about such a deviation.  But more importantly, I want to give advice to parents who are in the same situation.

It can be difficult if you don't know your rights.

This blog is about advocacy.  My dictionary.com app defines advocacy as: the act of pleading for, supporting or recommending.  

It is not a passive word.  It is active.  It requires time, energy, research and dedication.

Here's my story to illustrate this. 

Brady P. started pre-preschool in 2017.  It started as two days a week for 2 1/2 hours a day, then went to three days a week.

I was mostly excited because I knew that would be the most socialization he would get in our little hermit lives.  He would see other kids.

He could watch them.  

He could listen to them speak.

He could interact with them to the best of his ability (which was mostly hugs and hair pulling).

He would catch their germs.

But he would be with them, and they would experience him.

Socialization at its finest.

I wasn't too concerned about academics, since I already knew he was a genius.

But here is where it was different for me.

I had to accompany him each day for the duration in case he pooped in his diaper.  The one room schoolhouse does not offer diaper-changing service.  And I get it.  I used to teach preschool at the one room schoolhouse.  That was not part of my job description, nor did I want it to be.

So I was there each day he was.  I hid out in a little office room and did administrative tasks that I could not do with a three-year-old running around and screaming for me (that was his method back then.  Now it's a polite "Mommy" and a tug on the sleeve.)

I watched the other parents drop their pre-preschoolers off, give them a hug and say good-bye.

I could not do that.

I wanted it so bad.

It was not an option.

This year started out the same.  I accompanied him each day, three days a week... dutifully, yet begrudgingly.

Why couldn't I just drop my child off at school and hug him goodbye?  When would my life start? 

Something had to change.  

Brady P. still poops in his pants (though the peeing on the potty is going really well!), so I had to be there.  Not only for that, but he needs a communication liaison.  He needs help washing his hands and eating lunch.  He needs to be told to stay in his seat.  He needs someone to pay attention so he doesn't run out the door and down the road to throw rocks at the shore.

He needs his own aid.

Low and behold, his IEP was up for review at the end of September.

What's an IEP?  It stands for Individualized Education Program.  Any child with a learning disability, behavior problems, etc. should have an IEP in place, so that child, the teachers and the other students all have a chance to work together as cohesively as possible without extra interruptions.

That's how I see it at least.  It's a way to keep the child included for the most part while making sure they receive the extra attention and support they need to thrive.

Wearing my mittens

That photo was purposely inserted to keep you interested as I talk about potentially boring factual information.  What a ham.

So Brady P. has an IEP.  

When he turned three, he started in the Special Education program which was the next step after Early On, an early intervention program from birth to three years old.  Special Ed uses IEPs.

Braeden's current Special Ed case worker (and angel, I'm quite convinced) saw the situation at the Copper Harbor one room schoolhouse.  Well, okay, I sent her a desperate email asking how we can make everything the best we can for Brady P.

She was all in.

I will interject here that we were thinking of moving to Arkansas for the winter, so Braeden could still see his dad on weekends.  So I was looking into schools there as well.

With an IEP, the needs requested in that document would transfer to another state.  So when our Michigan IEP was being written, any possible requests for Arkansas were considered as well.

Talk about covering our bases.  He could have gone to school in pretty much any state, and had his needs covered without having hours of assessments done.

Anyway, we wrote the plan for his speech and physical therapy needs.  They were adjusted as I saw fit because I learned a lot from the last IEP's mistakes.

"Can we see you more often?" I asked his speech therapist last fall.

"Well, it's in the IEP as once a month, so... we could make an amendment... but now winter is coming..." she lamented like we were kind of stuck.

Bam.  That answered this mom's questions.

GET EVERYTHING WE NEED IN THE IEP.

If you are a parent with a child who travels down this path, please heed this advice.  Do not wait for the professionals to tell you what they think.  

Tell them what you think, and be adamant.

You know your child best.

The professionals I have worked with all do their job very well, but they cover many children.  

You cover that one.

Get what you need for your child.

That's what we did.  With the help of the Angel case worker.

And now I come full circle.

I am not typing this blog from the little office in the one room schoolhouse like I have for many posts over the past year or so.

I am at my kitchen table, looking at the sun shine on the cedar trees.

Because Braeden has an aid.

***!!!Insert happy dance and Alleluiah songs!!!***

Yes, Brady P. has his own aid, three days a week.  A local person who does not have to drive an hour through the blizzards.  Bless his heart for applying and taking on the challenge of my little man.

So do you know what I got to do each day this week?

I got to kiss and hug my little preschooler goodbye.

He does so well when I leave.

I think we both need that.

When you know how the system works, you can use it in your favor, and get what you need.  I have found the professionals very knowledgeable, helpful and pleased that I take an active role in my son's education.

Please note that I am the representative for Grant Township on the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) for Keweenaw, Houghton and Baraga Counties.  If you know of any parents in this area who are struggling with the system, please feel free to contact me personally, or call their office at (906)289-4250 ext.181.

You can attend a meeting with us for camaraderie, support, advice or more information.  There is a lot of support in the area, and yours (if you live somewhere else) that you may not know about.

Believe in your child, and believe in yourself.  I have learned that the possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Little Things

Hi!

What are you doing right now?

Are you doing 100-million things to try to get through the day?  Slamming coffee while navigation through traffic and finding a good radio station to read this blog to?  

Are you sitting in your recliner with a cup of tea while looking out the window at the beauty of Mother Nature and taking a few deep breaths before you have your favorite part of the week -- reading this blog? 

Wink.

Neither one is right or wrong (however, the former is dangerous while driving, and I don't recommend it.).  They are different, and  they are results of choices we have made.

We are where we are in life, and that's where we are.  It's not good or bad.  It just is.

How we choose to look at it is the only part we can control.

When I first gave birth to Braeden, my life instantly went from a peaceful, "easy" pregnancy to a sudden chaotic state of emergency: an infant failing to thrive, constant research about the unknown, troubleshooting daily life, real-life lessons about learning how to be assertive to authority and organizing a constantly-changing schedule of events.  

All while enduring sleep deprivation.

(If you are interested in learning the specifics about all that, I invite you to read Digging for Light ~ A Memoir to Inspire Humanity.)

That was the hardest thing I ever did in my life.  But we did it.  We made it through.  Thank you to everyone who helped.  I could not have done it without you.

Do you know how I mentally got through it?

I focused on the fact that it would all be over someday.  I just knew it had to be over some day because Brady P. would grow up.  His heart would get fixed.  He would have to gain weight at some point.  We'd have to figure out the cause of his emergency fevers too.

I visualized him as a happy, healthy, strong one-year-old. 

Daily.

Each moment I realized he was still alive, I was grateful.  

I tried to focus on my gratitude. 

Even when I would call my mother, the nurse, in a panic because his temperature spiked to 103.2 again, she would say, "Amanda, if his heart is beating and he's breathing, then it's not that big of an emergency."

It seems like a dramatic way to endure life with a newborn, but she was right.  If he was breathing and his heart was beating, then chances were, he wasn't going to die at that moment.  I had time to figure things out.

So I would try to be grateful with that time.  And be panicked while trying to get him comfortable and stable.  You know, mom stuff.

How do we even reach the point that we can feel gratitude in times of adversity?  How can we find it in our busy everyday life?  

We have to slow the heck down.

And say thank you.

For instance, I am grateful for the following things, so I say:

I am grateful for all that I am, all that I have and all that I can be.  I am grateful to live in this beautiful, peaceful town.  I am grateful for my health and abilities to do the things I need to do each day... and more.  I am grateful for my son who has taught me a whole new level of gratitude and love.  I am grateful I have good food to eat.  I am grateful I am pursuing my writing, a talent and gift that I can share to help me with my purpose of raising the consciousness of humanity.

That's basically the gist of mine.

What's yours?

Do you already have a spiel?  Is this something new for you?

Well, either way, give it a try!

Everyday.

And see how your life improves.

Cuz really, it's just the little things that help us get through the day.

So I leave you with a picture of Brady P. seizing the moment and enjoying a frolic through the leaves.  If it was a video, you would see that he turns around and goes the other way once he gets to the end.  Haha.  Little man.

Knee deep in the leaves