Thursday, August 22, 2013

BLINK. Hannah Kate is in Kindergarten.

One of the most popular posts I wrote was Mason's Blink post when he started Kindergarten in August 2010.  That was three years ago.  But it seems like just yesterday . . .


Mason is now in 3rd grade.  And Hannah Kate is in Kindergarten.  Ellie is 13 months old.

Teach me to number my days
And count every moment before it slips away
Taking all the colors before they fade to gray
I don't want to miss even just a second more of this . . .
It happens in a blink;
It happens in a flash;
It happens in the time it takes to look back.
I try to hold on tight,
but there's no stopping time.
What is it I've done with my life?
It happens in a blink . . .

~BLINK by Revive~

After six and a half years of living in Louisiana, we're moving to Mississippi.  BLINK.  I'm pregnant again, quite possibly the biggest surprise of my life.  BLINK.  Hannah Kate is born.  BLINK.  Hannah Kate does not like to sleep, and it seems like I will never sleep again the rest of my life.  BLINK.  Hannah Kate is one.  BLINK.  We're moving back to Louisiana.  BLINK.  At 18 months old, Hannah Kate finally starts sleeping through the night so maybe those sleepless nights weren't so bad or so long after all.  BLINK.  We build our house.  BLINK.  Mason starts Kindergarten, but at least I still have three more years at home with Hannah Kate.  BLINK.  Hannah Kate starts ballet and tap classes, but she's only three years old.  BLINK.  Hannah Kate is four years old, and she's going to be a big sister.  BLINK.  Ellie is born.  BLINK.  Hannah Kate is five years old, but we still have awhile before she starts Kindergarten because she's a December baby.  BLINK.  Hannah Kate is so ready to go to school, but Mommy is not ready for her to go yet so Mommy doesn't think about it a whole lot.  BLINK.  My Hannah Kate, my best friend, my sidekick for five and a half years celebrated her first day of Kindergarten this past Monday.  BLINK.  Where did the last five and a half years run off to?
Hannah Kate was so excited when she went to bed on Sunday night that I didn't think she'd sleep very good.  She could hardly wait for Monday morning so she could go to school.  
She wanted biscuits for breakfast.  And then it was time to don her uniform and her new tennis shoes.  She absolutely loves her backpack and lunchbox.  She'd given me strict instructions on what she wanted in her lunchbox for the first day of school:  a turkey, cheese and lettuce wrap, cheese chunks, a pickle, carrot and celery sticks with Ranch dip and chocolate pudding.

As is our tradition on the first day of school (so it wasn't Mason's first day, but it was Hannah Kate's first day), I took the kids to school.  Mason wanted me to drop them off in the carpool line and said he would help Hannah Kate find her classroom.  Nice try, buddy.  This Momma parked, and we all went in together.  I watched as my big girl walked down the Kindergarten hallway and into her classroom.  She's so big.  Yet she's so little!

She got to the door, turn around, smiled and said (rather matter-of-factly I might add), "Bye, Mom."  Really?!  I told her I wanted to go in and take her picture.  Those eyes rolled back into her head.  She gets that from me.
So I hovered as she found her cubby and her hanger for her backpack and lunchbox.
Mrs. Williams had "morning work" ready at her desk so Hannah Kate quickly got to work coloring her M.  
She didn't have much to say to me after that so I eventually left and made my way down the hall to Mason's classroom.  I honestly don't even think Hannah Kate noticed I was gone.  My girl is all grown up!

Everyone has asked me this week how Hannah Kate likes school.  Well, Monday she complained because she didn't have enough homework.  I asked her if she made any new friends, and she told me she did not.  I asked her if she talked at all, and she said no.  Now I truly believe that!  I'll bet she didn't utter a peep all day long.  She made up for it when she got home though!

Tuesday afternoon her class was on the playground when I arrived for the carpool line.  I quickly spotted her neon pink soled tennis shoes and watched her play.  She was going down the slide and hanging upside down on the monkey bars.  I noticed there was another little girl with long brown hair by her side.  I loved watching her play!  She didn't see me until they lined up to go inside, and then she waved at me.  I asked her about the girl with the long brown hair.  Hannah Kate said she didn't know her name, but she made two new friends that day, one with long hair and one with short hair.  Later on our way home after dance, she blurted out from the back seat, "I can't wait for tomorrow!"  It's not true that there's no such thing as a stupid question.  Because I asked one.  "Why?"  And her answer?  "Because I get to go back to school.  It is awesome!"  And at this point she is singing her sentences in a high-pitched sing songy voice.  

She was excited yesterday afternoon because she finally had to do some writing as part of her homework.  She also told me the long haired friend's name is Chloe.  So I guess that means she's finally talking at school now.  

I can write this next part because she can't read it yet.  Her teacher sent me a little note today that said Hannah Kate got upset at lunch time because she missed me.  I didn't mention this in particular to her when I asked about her day.  But she did tell me she missed me and Ellie.  I have to admit it did my heart good to hear that.  I miss her, too.

On Monday morning, one of my dear friends sent me a text to encourage me, as she knew it was Hannah Kate's first day of school.  She said, "Love watching God grow our children."  That reminder brought comfort to my Momma-heart.  I used to feel a twinge of sadness on milestones such as this in my children's lives.  But during the past year I have instead embraced their new adventures and all of the little things that mean so much to them.  I would love to hold Hannah Kate as an infant again.  I would love to go back to those days, even the seemingly never-ending sleepless nights.  But more than that, I have learned to love where she is right now at almost six years old.  She is having the time of her life, and that makes my heart sing.  Her hunger for learning and her excitement about the possibilities for each new day is one of my favorite things in life right now.  She is growing up to be such a sweet, spunky, intelligent, passionate little lady.  There's nothing I love more than watching God's plan unfold for her life, watching His plan for Mason and Ellie, too.  

Yes, it does go by quickly.  I hope I will always be intentional and live in each moment with my children.  And, before I know it, Hannah Kate will be graduating high school.  But she isn't.  Not yet, at least.  BLINK.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Night Before (2nd time around)

'Twas the night before Kindergarten,
Hannah Kate's, that is,
and the Bayham house is quiet,
everyone in bed.

Her backpack is ready,
she gave me instructions
about her lunch to fix,
her uniform is ironed
and with a new bow to match,
but the thing she's really looking forward to
is wearing her new kicks.
How can it be possible?
Is it really for true?
Hannah Kate can't be going to Kindergarten.
Oh my, how the years flew!

She's my big girl, my sidekick, my best friend for sure!
She dances and twirls,
she colors and draws,
she keeps me on my toes,
she makes me laugh more than she knows.

But the dear girl is ready,
she can't wait to go,
she hungers to learn
she's looking forward to her new adventure so!

When I look at her
and the beautiful, sweet, passionate child she is,
I swell with pride
and joy inside.

I saw her today,
all five and a half years,
and I wonder how in the world
I will keep back the tears.
Can't be!
Is she five already?
But somehow, she looks-twenty three!
She's growing up
before my very eyes.
She's a strawberry blonde beauty
with a twinkle and a smile.
 This is not my first "night before,"
I did it with Mason
not too long ago.
And just like last time
the same is true:
I have to let go,
and I will get through!

Tomorrow is a new day;
it'll come quick enough.
But I have no doubt
it'll be a little tough.
I'll give her a hug,
a kiss and a wave.
I've already told her
to be real brave.

But it isn't she
that needs all of this -
the pep talk, the hugs,
the cheers, the kiss.
She will be fine.
I know it for true.
You see I'm the one who's a puddle
and wishing I could slow time!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

o-FISH-ally a kindergartner!

On Thursday evening, Hannah Kate and I went to Kindergarten Orientation.  Several people have asked me how I feel about Hannah Kate going to Kindergarten.  Honestly, I really haven't had time to think about it because I've been so busy dealing with the school regarding Mason's situation.  Or maybe I've just really, on purpose, not thought about it!  But as I was driving to school on Thursday, I looked back at her in my rear view mirror.  And for the first time in a long time she seemed so little to me, like it really couldn't be possible that she's going to Kindergarten, and a lump formed in my throat that I had to quickly get rid of.

This girl has been so excited for such a long time about going to school.  She really wanted to go last year, but it wasn't her turn yet.  All she's been talking about this summer is her new backpack and lunchbox, her uniforms and her school tennis shoes.  We spent a lot of time during the summer completing a couple of Kindergarten workbooks, and she was none too happy when those workbooks were finished.  She loves writing and drawing and coloring.  She loves letters and letter sounds.  She really wanted me to teach her how to read before going to Kindergarten, but I told her we needed to at least have something left they could teach her at school!  She knows all of her letters and letter sounds and can write them.  She can write her name.  She can count to . . . close to 1,000.  She can read several simple sight words.  She can also do some simple addition.

She thought she was such a big girl when she went to school last Friday for her "kindergarten test."  The teacher told me she did an "awesome" job.  So I have no doubt that Hannah Kate is ready.  As for me, well, I'm sure I'll be a puddle on Monday morning, if not before!

When we arrived at school on Thursday, we walked down the Kindergarten hall (which, for some reason, seemed rather big and intimidating at the moment) until we found her classroom.  She quickly found her name on the board outside her room.
When we walked into the classroom, Mrs. Williams met us at the door.  She greeted Hannah Kate with a big smile and took her to find her cubby and her hook.  Then we walked around the classroom until Hannah Kate found her seat.  Here she is sitting at her desk, already ready to learn!
Mrs. Williams had a little treat bag with goldfish crackers for each student with a tag attached to it that read, "o-FISH-ally a Kindergartner!"  How cute!
Mrs. Williams reviewed classroom procedures and school procedures and then she encouraged the students to walk around the room and explore.  Hannah Kate quickly spotted the learning center with the play kitchen.  I suspect she'll be spending a lot of time there.  Here she is again at her desk.  She really didn't want to leave her desk.  I'm not sure if that was because she was being a bit shy (which is entirely very possible since she peeled the polish off of one of her fingernails while we were there!) or if she thought she was really going to get to "do school" that night.
And here she is with Mrs. Williams.
But Hannah Kate still calls her Ms. Alexander.  Ms. Alexander was Mason's Kindergarten teacher, but she got engaged when he was in Kindergarten and then married the following year.  She now she's Mrs. Williams!  Hannah Kate always said she wanted to be in Ms. Alexander's class, and we are so very excited that she is!  We can not wait to have another great year with Mrs. Alexander Williams!  But I think we're all going to have to get used to calling her Mrs. Williams.  Mason's year was her first year of teaching.  And she told me on Thursday night that this is the first time she's taught a sibling of one of her former students.  So I think it will be a special year for all of us.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The 3rd Day of 3rd Grade

Well.  Today was a good day.  Until this afternoon.  

As we finally began to figure out why Mason was struggling so to learn how to read, it also became obvious how God had prepared the path for us and how He had gone before us and continues to go before us.  It has not been an easy journey.  Quite the contrary honestly.  There were many, many days when it seemed like an impossible situation, like nothing was going right, like everything was against us.  There is no truth in that at all.  That's just where I was as a result of the fear that engulfed every fiber of my being.  But now that I look back, I see so clearly how God did what He did to get us where we are today.

What a difference a year makes!  Last year at this time, Mason was beginning 2nd grade.  And I was scared to death.  I knew there was a problem.  I didn't know what it was.  I didn't know how to figure out what it was.  I felt stuck.  I felt helpless.  Today was our 3rd day of 3rd grade.  Even though I don't necessarily look forward to the school year because I know that it's going to be a hard and bumpy ride (just keeping it real!), it's such a relief going into a school year knowing exactly what's going on and exactly what needs to be done about it.  And not only that, but we are even able at this point to do something about it.

Having said that . . . I don't believe in coincidences.  I believe in God ordained encounters.  I believe God directs every step of the way, if we will only follow Him, to get us to where He needs us to be.  To help us.  To bless us.

It was not a coincidence that my Bible study small group leader last year was the mother of a child with a learning disability.  She'd walked a road similar to mine for many years.  Her daughter was in 11th grade.  So she'd "been there done that," and her encouragement and advice was absolutely invaluable.  I know that doesn't seem like a big deal.  But here's the thing.  Last year was my second year in that Bible study.  I was pretty disappointed when I found out that I would be placed in a new group with a new leader my second year.  I'd grown close to the girls in my group the first year, and I didn't particularly want to change.  But they had this rule of sorts, and they reassign the groups each year.  So I was put in a new group with a new leader.  And now I'm so thankful for this rule (okay, so honestly I'm not going to be so thankful for this rule in a few weeks when we start Bible study again and I'm in yet another group!).

My group leader called me every Tuesday morning.  I was very open and honest with my group from the very beginning regarding our situation.  It was, at the time, the only "safe" place for me.  So they knew.  Imagine my shock when my group leader told me about her daughter who has a learning disability.  And she began to share with me the struggles of their journey, much like my own.  Not only that, but she gave me the best advice, something that I have to remind myself of each day.  She told me one day, "Julie, this is not a race.  This is a marathon.  It will be long.  It will be hard.  But right now, today, you just need to focus on today.  You have to take this thing one stride, one step at a time.  What do you need to do today?  What needs to be done today?  Do not worry about the test that isn't today.  Do not worry about the grades that aren't today.  Do not worry about what MIGHT happen because it hasn't even happened yet.  Focus on today and what you need to do today to help Mason today."

That's hard for me.  I'm a big picture kind of girl, a planner and a thinker.  I'm always moving forward, thinking forward.  All I could think about was WHAT IF . . . what if he fails another test?  What if he fails 2nd grade?  What if he can't go back to his school?  What if I have to home school?  What if I have to go back to work?  What if what if what if.  All day long.  Worry.  Fear.  Borrowing trouble.

So instead of thinking about Mason's first reading test in 3rd grade, I just need to think about what is required to complete homework today.  Instead of worrying about the book report that's due in nine weeks, I just need to think about the ten minutes of reading we had for homework today.  Today we had to go to speech and educational therapies.  That's what we had to do today.  I do not need to spend time dreading the carpool line tomorrow or Wednesday or the trip to Baton Rouge for more therapy on Wednesday.  That's not today.

Week after week, phone call after phone call, prayer after prayer, she always knew exactly what to say.  And, at that point, she was the only mom I knew that was in the midst of schooling and parenting a child with a learning disability.

But one of my favorite non-coincidences was how we ended up in therapy at McMain's.  They were not on my list.  When I began to pursue private therapy providers in mid-February, I knew of only one place to call.  The lady I spoke to was so kind and compassionate.  I quickly found out they didn't accept our insurance.  I also found out that they had a waiting list and couldn't immediately accept us.  That seemed to be a dead end.

I remembered a friend of mine had, many months before, mentioned a place where her son's friend received therapy services.  I couldn't remember the name of it, but I remembered the location and was able to google it.  Again, I found them to be so kind and compassionate.  They accepted our insurance, but they, too, had a waiting list for therapy so we couldn't immediately be accepted.  The occupational therapist there even went so far as to give me a list of five other places to call.  So I did, and the story was pretty much the same.  Waiting list.

At this point, I was getting super discouraged.  I was not interested in waiting.  I didn't feel like we had time to wait.  We were not getting any support at school, and things were going quickly downhill there.  We needed help.  Of the five places she told me about, there was one place I didn't even bother to call.  She told me she knew for a fact they had a long waiting list at this particular place.  And not only that, but I even found their website and just decided that it probably wasn't the place for us anyway.  The place I didn't bother to call was McMain's.

In the meantime, I decided that I just needed to get our name on a waiting list somewhere.  And for some reason, I decided on the place that my friend's son's friend went.  Just for extra measure, I called her "just to be sure."  At this point, she knew nothing about the chaos that was going on and why we were where we were and why we needed therapy.  Even then, I didn't share a whole lot.  Our conversation happened on a Thursday.  The following Saturday, she called me rather late.  She told me she couldn't really talk because she was chaperoning her son on a date with his girlfriend.  She then told me to get a pen and paper to write down a phone number she was going to give me.  Her son's girlfriend's mother was a social worker at McMain's.  My sweet friend told her our story while their kids were on their date, and this social worker shared that she'd just had an unexpected opening for educational therapy at McMain's.  She also explained to my friend that what many people didn't know about McMain's is that they serve all kinds of children with all kinds of disabilities and that they are one of the only therapy providers that, in addition to occupational, speech and physical therapies, offer educational therapy, meaning they can remediate learning disabilities.  She told my friend to tell me to call her the following Tuesday morning and that she would hold the spot for me.

So you can imagine that I called her early that Tuesday morning.  Within a week, our insurance was verified and all of the necessary paperwork was completed.  In less than two weeks, Mason began educational therapy at McMain's two days a week after school.  We were on the waiting list for speech and occupational, but at least we were able to begin educational.  And, of course, we began speech and occupational in May.

When I met our social worker at McMain's in person for the very first time, I told her to tell her daughter (whom I'd already met one night when she was going to a homecoming dance with my friend's son) that if anything ever happened to her and R and if they ever broke up that she shouldn't be sad about that because she was the one who ultimately made it possible for a 2nd grader to really learn how to read and to get his confidence back . . . and so, if anything, she dated R so we could meet her mom.  Guess what?  The very next week, she and R broke up!  Seriously.  And I did apologize to her mom about that!

So all along the way, God has put us exactly where we needed to be.  I can look back and thank Him for the way that things worked out, the way things continue to work out.  Not a day goes by that I don't remind myself of the people along the way who have helped us, the words of advice from my Bible study leader, the way God has provided for every single step in our journey.  When the fear and the doubt and the worry start to find their way in again (because this still happens pretty much everyday), I just remind myself of God's faithfulness.  He has never left us, He has never let us down.  And He will not.  Ever.

But today.  It started out a good day.  It really did.  But I'm going on day three with no return phone call from the school board office after I called last week and left a message.  So that's just . . . well, I won't say what that is.  I went to pick Mason up in the carpool line so we could go to Baton Rouge for speech and educational therapies today.  This year we don't have to be there until 4:30 instead of 4:15 so I was excited about the extra 15 minutes to "get over the bridge."  But I ended up losing that 15 minutes because Mason's school dismisses 15 minutes later this year than they did last year.  I was still pretty confident that we'd make it in time so I'd already decided not to worry about that.  But after I picked up Mason, and we were on our way to Baton Rouge, the police for some reason had the highway blocked and would not let us go.  Even now I don't know why.  After two minutes or so of just sitting there, I knew I had to do something.  So I made a u-turn and tried to find my way along the side streets.  I thought I had it made until I came to another road block.  I was beginning to think the entire highway to Baton Rouge was closed.  And I almost called McMain's to tell them we wouldn't be able to make it for therapy today.

But I decided to try to keep going.  I was eventually able to get out of the mess and bypass whatever the problem was.  But by that time, I was running really late, and traffic on the bridge was just horrible, barely moving.  I was really frustrated.  But we did make it in time.  Mason had two great therapy sessions.  His speech therapist made it a point today to tell me how well Mason was doing and how proud she was of him.  So that was encouraging.  Mason was even encouraged today.  It's only the third day, but he's really liking 3rd grade so far.  He's had a really positive attitude about it and has told me more than once how much better 3rd grade is than 2nd grade.  But after homework tonight, he's probably changed his mind.

By the time we got home, ate supper and got baths, it was 7:15 before we were able to start on homework.  I wasn't concerned because it really wasn't that much at all.  But the reading.  He has to read a chapter book for 10 minutes each night and then write three sentences about what he just read, what he thinks about it, how it makes him feel.  We will have to do this everyday.  I knew as soon as I saw it how hard it was going to be for him.  Not the reading.  But the comprehension, the thinking, the writing.  These are the things he's working on in speech therapy.  Auditory processing.  The information goes in, but then it just gets jumbled up, and he doesn't know how to express it orally.  He can't quite get it out.

For example, this was part of our conversation tonight:
Me: How do you feel about what happened to the boy in the story?
Mason: Sad.
Me: Why?
Mason: Because it was sad.
Me: Why was it sad?
Mason: What happened was sad.
Me: Can you tell me why what happened was sad?
Mason: I don't know.

He's right.  It was sad.  And he knew that.  But he couldn't tell me why.  He couldn't express it with his words.  So I tried several other questions, several other angles.  But when he reads something, that's just it.  He reads.  He doesn't put himself in the story, he doesn't apply the story, he doesn't identify with the story, he doesn't think about the story.  He just reads.  This is especially true with fiction.  He doesn't particularly care for fiction.  He'd much rather be reading non-fiction.

So we got our 10 minutes of reading done, but it took nearly 30 minutes for him to come up with and write his own sentences.  I was helping him as much as I possibly could, but I eventually ran out of questions to ask.  I couldn't think of any other way.  And, of course, by the end of the 30 minutes, he was already in tears, already telling me it was too hard and that he couldn't do it.  By the end of the 30 minutes, I was ready to throw the book and all of 3rd grade out of the window and just forget about ever having to read again.  Oh.  Did I mention this is only our 3rd day?

At this point, I just remind myself that today's homework is finished.  Tomorrow will be a new day.  We'll do it all over again.  But it will be okay.  One way or another, it will be okay.  I just feel so badly that he was already in tears.  It's hard.  It hurts.  There are still days and moments and times that I just hate this whole thing.

I have to go back to what I know is true.

"Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you.  He will not leave you nor forsake you."  ~Deuteronomy 31:6     

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Mason's First Day of 3rd Grade

Today was Mason's first day of 3rd grade.  He woke up with a smile.  When I dropped him off in the car pool line, he was still smiling.  And he greeted me with a smile again this afternoon when I picked him up.  It was a great day!

We missed Mason today.  I passed the hours by cleaning windows, cleaning fan blades and replacing light bulbs.  That's just a typical first-day-of-school for me.

Hannah Kate begins kindergarten this year, but her first day isn't until August 19.  She was quite disappointed when she found out she has to wait another ten days before starting school.  Tomorrow she will go to school for her "kindergarten test."  Next Thursday evening we have kindergarten orientation.  And then the first day of school.  She is so ready.  She's talked about how she wants me to pack her lunchbox.  She can't wait to wear her new uniform and tennis shoes.  Today she finished the workbooks we've been doing this summer.  She kept asking me, "Okay Mom.  I'm done.  What next?"

When we went to pick up Mason this afternoon, she just stared out the window at the kids on the playground.  She was the cutest little thing.  She was wearing one of Abbie's hand-me-down outfits and her cowboy hat and gloves from two recitals ago.  She was quite the sight. 
For the first time in a very long time, I woke up on a school morning filled with peace and calm and hope instead of dread and worry and fear.  Although 5:30 came early, it wasn't so hard to get up this time.  And I have to tell you . . . I already knew God has blessed me with incredible family and friends, but He really has outdone Himself!  The support and encouragement I've received since my post last night was truly overwhelming today.  I was thinking earlier what an honor it is to be a part of the "learning disabled" community.

During the past several months I've also thought and prayed a lot, asking the Lord to use me and to use our story to somehow help other children and families.  I don't know right now what that means.  When I was working on my Master's in Education at Southeastern, I was required to pursue dual certification in regular education and special education.  At the time, I had no intention nor interest in teaching special education.  But that has changed.  At the same time, I've become quite attached to our Social Worker and therapists at McMain's.  The work they do is amazing.  They were instrumental in helping Mason to believe in himself again.  Speech therapy and occupational therapy . . . it's absolutely fascinating!  But I have to be honest.  During the past couple of months, I've really wanted to go to Law School.  I would love to be a child advocacy lawyer or somehow work at the state level to advocate for children with disabilities in the school system.  Of course, right now I have my hands full with just our school!

I don't know what 3rd grade holds.  But I am convinced that we will be just fine.  There will be some hard days.  I know that.  But the Lord goes before us and has prepared the way for us.  None of this has taken Him by surprise!  He knew all along.  The Psalmist's words have meant so much more to me:

"O LORD, You have searched me and known me.  You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.  You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.  For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.  You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.

For You formed [Mason's] inward parts;
You covered [Mason] in my womb.
I will praise You, for [Mason] is fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
and that my soul knows very well.
[Mason's] frame was not hidden from You, when he was made in secret,
and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw [Mason's] substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
the days fashioned for [Mason]
when as yet there were none of them."

~Psalm 139

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

My name is Julie. And I'm a Binder Mom.

Last October I shared that Mason was struggling with reading.  A few weeks later, I shared with much excitement what I thought was finally a breakthrough; however, I was very vague in my post and you've not heard anything else about it since then.  The truth is that the months since that post have been perhaps the most difficult time of my life, the deepest, loneliest valley I've walked through.  I've been silent on my blog about it, and I haven't really blogged a whole lot about anything since then.  There were times when I thought I might begin to share, but I did not, could not.  But now it's time.

It was after a conversation with Mason's teacher last November and a conversation with my sister-in-law and a conversation with our pediatrician that we finally realized why Mason was having such a hard time learning how to read.  He is dyslexic.  Even as I stare at the words I just typed, I still fear.  I fear what people might think of him, how he might be judged, how he might be treated or talked about.  That is why I've not talked about this before now on my blog.  That is why, even still, only our family and closest friends know that Mason is dyslexic.  Until now, I guess!

I had heard of dyslexia before, but I truly didn't know what it was.  At that point way back in November, I wasn't even quite sure what to do.  And I certainly had NO IDEA how in the world to help my son.  All I know is that I felt a sense of relief.  There was finally an explanation and a reason as to why it's been so hard . . . and now we could "do something about it" . . . and now we don't have to live under the pressure of grades and timed reading scores and academic probation.  Or so I thought.

Seth and I decided that we were going to do everything we could, everything in our power, exhaust every resource available to figure this thing out and help our son.  We also decided that we were not going to wait on the school to do whatever they needed to do or were supposed to do but that we were going to go ahead and do what we needed to do.  Upon the recommendation of our pediatrician, we chose a child psychologist in Baton Rouge to consult with.  During the months of December and January, Mason participated in a complete psycho-educational evaluation.  This just means he took a whole lot of tests and did a whole lot of activities.  I sat down with the doctor on February 5 while he explained the results and his recommendations on how we should proceed and how we could best help Mason.  The results of the evaluation confirmed what we'd already figured out: dyslexia.

The sense of relief I'd felt in November quickly dissipated.  In its place was anxiety, uncertainty, discouragement and helplessness.  It was overwhelming.  At that moment, I knew it was not going to be easy.  It was going to be hard.  Dang hard.

The following Friday, February 15, I met with Mason's teacher, evaluation in hand.  It was during that meeting with her that I felt what seemed like an impossible situation just sit on my shoulders, the sheer weight of it crushing me to pieces.  Five minutes into the meeting, I started crying, and I could not stop.  That was the first time since November that I cried.  I listened as Mason's teacher gently led me through what was happening and what could potentially happen.  At this point, Mason was really struggling in reading.  It was the worst it had ever been.  Honestly, he was failing reading.

Day in and day out Mason would go to school and do the work.  He'd come home, and we'd spend two hours on homework, the majority of that being reading.  He was working. so. hard.  He was giving it his all.  And he had (or he felt like he had) nothing to show for it.  His self-esteem and his confidence were really low at this point.  So how could I tell my child that he might have to repeat 2nd grade?  FAIL 2nd grade?  My child who I knew was smart and intelligent.  My child who still had big dreams of becoming a dentist.  My child who is a whiz at math and can memorize like nobody's business.  I just knew that would crush his spirit to pieces.  And I felt absolutely helpless.

That night Seth and I had reservations at our favorite restaurant for Valentine's Day.  I'd already dressed for our date before my meeting with Mason's teacher.  When I got home, I had to wash my face and reapply all of my makeup.  I'm pretty sure that was the worst date I've ever been on in my life!  I was such a wreck that I couldn't even tell Seth about my meeting with Mason's teacher.  It was all I could do to try to hold it together until we got out of that restaurant.  By that point, all seemed hopeless.

The following week was absolutely debilitating.  I experienced fear like I've never experienced in my entire life.  It sucked the very breath and life out of me.  I felt it.  I knew it.  I prayed about it.  But it was a fear that took hold of me and wouldn't let go.  I knew what I was supposed to do, I knew it was the enemy, I knew what God's Word says about fear, but I was completely paralyzed.  I did not know what to do or where to turn.  I did not know how to help my child.  And I was dying on the inside.

It was Sunday again.  Church again.  The next afternoon, a friend from church called me.  We talk a lot, see each other often.  But I hadn't told her a word about what was going on.  After a few minutes, she said something like this:  I'm not real sure what's going on with you right now, but yesterday at church you just looked so tired.  A lot more tired than usual.  And it's like you might be worried about something.  I don't know what's going on, but I think something is, and it's okay if you want to talk about it.

So I did a little bit.  I honestly don't remember what she said after that, but I do remember thinking that I had to get myself together.  I obviously couldn't hide it anymore because other people were beginning to notice that something was wrong.  I organized my thoughts and made a list (because I love making a list because I love checking things off.  Literally.) of what I thought I should do to proceed.  It was a short list, only seven items.  And then I sent my list to my prayer partners and asked them to pray for us.

I spent the next three weeks working through my list.  One of the items included finding some sort of tutoring help (at this point, I knew I couldn't do it on my own anymore because I didn't know how to "teach" someone who is dyslexic) and researching private therapy providers.  Dr. H had recommended occupational therapy (OT) to help refine some of Mason's fine motor skills, particularly handwriting.  I contacted several therapy groups and got the same answer from all of them: we'd love to help, but we have a waiting list right now.  It was also during this time and through these conversations with social workers and therapists that I came to learn that Mason would probably need speech therapy (SLP), too.  Have I mentioned how overwhelming this was?  And still is.

And then, through a series of events that could only have been ordained by the Lord, Mason began educational therapy at McMain's Children's Developmental Center in Baton Rouge on March 19.  They didn't have any current openings for OT or SLP, but we were on a waiting list for the summer.  We went every Tuesday and Thursday.  I would arrive at school at 2:30, wait in the carpool line until 3:00 (I had to get there at 2:30 to get in the front of the line to beat the buses) and then go to Baton Rouge.  This was so much easier said than done because traffic getting over the Mississippi River bridge and into Baton Rouge at that time of day was a nightmare.  Our appointment time was 4:15.  And because of traffic, we were late on our very first day.  Not only that, but Hannah Kate had her dance class on Thursdays at 4:30.  I thought I would be able to drop Mason off at therapy and then go back over the river to have her at dance by 4:30 and then go back across the river again to pick Mason up at 5:00 and then across again to pick Hannah Kate up at 5:30.  Yeah, that didn't work at all.  So on Thursdays I would take Hannah Kate to my mother-in-law's, and she would take her to dance.  I picked her up after therapy.  For the remainder of March, April and May, this is what we did on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

As if this wasn't enough, baseball started at the end of April.  Our games were on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  So we had therapy on Tuesdays and Thursdays and games on the other days of the weeks.  Not to mention homework.  It was absolutely exhausting.  The end of baseball season and the end of the school year couldn't get here fast enough.

In April Mason was evaluated for OT and SLP.  He began those therapies at McMain's on May 30.  So every Thursday this summer, Mason had OT and SLP.

It was also during this same time that we'd requested an evaluation from Mason's school.  You see, they will review private evaluations, but they have to do their own also.  We submitted copies of his evaluations and therapy reports.  His teacher submitted a lot of documentation.  We specifically requested that he be evaluated for a 504 plan to address the learning differences created by the dyslexia.  This just means that the school would put some accommodations in place that would "level the playing field" for him.  Examples of accommodations for a student with dyslexia might be: breaking a reading test down into smaller parts instead of completing the test all at once, giving the student more time to complete a reading test, verbally testing on those subjects that aren't testing for reading (like science and social studies).  We requested the evaluation for Mason based on the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

I'd done my research and even talked with several special education teachers and directors.  It seemed to me that it should be relatively easy for the school to help us address Mason's dyslexia and partner with us to be sure his education plan is appropriate for him.  We requested the evaluation in November.  When I did not hear anything from the administration at the school, we requested the evaluation again in February.  I also wrote several letters to the administration.  Days passed.  Weeks.  Even months.  On April 19, I finally had a meeting with the Student Assessment Team at Mason's school.  At this meeting, I was told that our request for an evaluation for Mason was denied.  They were not going to do an evaluation.  I was . . . shocked.  By this time . . . honestly, I was numb.  It had been such a long, grueling four months.  I could not even think straight, could not even speak coherently.  I was speechless.  We have doctor's and therapists' reports, we have classroom work, we have everything.  We did everything we were supposed to do.  And yet we were told that Mason is "too high functioning in other areas" and "an average student" and that perhaps we should just keep in mind that his magnet school is a school of choice and may not be the right fit for him.  Oh really?!?

After that meeting on April 19, I checked Mason out of class, and we went to Disney World.  It was the week of spring break.  During that week, I did not give one single thought to dyslexia or therapy or evaluations or school.  I just had fun, the kind of fun I hadn't had in a very long time.  But Disney only lasted a week and then it was back to school and therapy.  At this point, I will not share anymore of what happened at school because I do not have anything nice to say about that right now.  We'll just leave it at that.

And here we are, the night before the first day of 3rd grade.  Yes, Mason will go to 3rd grade tomorrow!  We began to see some signs that the educational therapy is helping him, and his reading grade actually improved at bit at the end of the year.  He finished 2nd grade well, and he finished strong.  But I've dreaded this day ever since the last day of 2nd grade.  We had orientation last week.  I made it through that pretty good.  I met with Mason's teacher on Monday.  I told her our story, cried a little.  My meeting with her was open and honest and even encouraging.  I have a binder that I've been keeping of Mason's evaluations and therapy reports and report cards and information about dyslexia and the ADA and the IDEA and all correspondence I've written and conversations I've had.  I carry this binder with me everywhere I go.  It has neatly divided, labeled tabs.  It also has different colored sticky notes sticking out everywhere.  Mason's teacher smiled when she saw it.  She said, "Ah, I know you.  You're a Binder Mom."

Yes, I am.  I am a Binder Mom.  

Sometimes (like last Monday) fear sneaks its way back in.  One of the (MANY) lessons I've learned during these past few months is that of trust.  Real, authentic trust in God and in His plan for my life and the lives of my children.  It's one thing to say I trust God in all things and with all things.  It's another thing to actually trust God in all things and with all things and to live it out!  If I believe and know God and His Word (and I do!), I believe and know that His plan is good and best (Jeremiah 29:11).  If His plan, which I believe and know is good and best, why would I fear?  Why would I fear His good and best plan?  After all, that's the plan I want!  His plan!

I've asked myself many times what is it exactly that I fear . . . what is it exactly that took my breath away?  Fear of failure.  I've always had a fear of failure.  But this time it was different.  I had a fear of failing my beloved Mason, fear that I would mess up and not do the right thing for him or say the right thing for him.  And for the first time, this was something that I could not fix for my child, something I can not take away.

I've told God many times that He picked the wrong Momma for this.  I was supposed to be strong for my child.  The Momma is supposed to be the one whom the child leans on.  This Momma has been frail and weak.  And my Mason . . . he has been so strong and so courageous throughout this whole thing.  Sure, there was a time when he was discouraged, real discouraged.  But he didn't let it stop him.  He kept on going.  And going.  I didn't even realize it until later, but I was the one leaning on him.

I will share how we came to the conclusion that Mason is dyslexic (because people always ask me that).  I will also share what dyslexia is (because I can assure you it is not just "reading words backwards" or "mixing up b's and d's").  I will also share how the Lord worked and orchestrated the circumstances to put us where we needed to be (the story of how we ended up in therapy at McMain's is a bit funny).

But for today, I'm sharing that I am a Binder Mom.  I have color coded dividing tabs and color coded sticky notes.  I have color coded laundry baskets.  I am also going to bind the enemy and the fear in which he wants me to live and look forward to new beginnings and a fresh start in 3rd grade.  I am daily binding myself to my Lord Jesus Christ and trusting Him in all things and with all things, walking in the power and victory that is mine IN HIM.

There are several verses the Lord gave me over and over these past few months.  They are on the front cover of my binder.

"Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you.  He will not leave you nor forsake you.  And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you.  He will be with you.  He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed."  ~Deuteronomy 31:6, 8

The Lord has gone before us on every single step of this journey.  I can't wait to share more of that with you.

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him."  ~Psalm 28:7

Even in the midst of the struggle and the uncertainty, I never want to cease to praise Him.  

"For You will light my lamp; The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.  For by You I can run against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall.  As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.  For who is God, except the LORD?  And who is a rock, except our God?  It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect."  ~Psalm 18:28-32

The LORD makes impossible situations possible!

"Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-The-God-Who-Sees."  ~Genesis 16:13

Not once did God ever forget us!  Not once did God ever not know what we were going through.  God saw every tear, heard every cry.  Not once were we ever alone.

I know this journey . . . well, it isn't going to be easy.  And reading, well, it's going to be hard for awhile.  But I also know that I can rest and trust God with Mason.  His plan for Mason . . . well, I'm sure it's going to knock my socks off one day!  I am merely humbled and blessed that I get to be a small part of it.