Friday, October 31, 2014

Dressing Up

They dressed up today.  I sent a ninja and Snow White to school this morning, and the little princess joined them later.  It wasn't until the end of the day that I had them all together for a picture, by which time they were all very tired, the ninja was ready to come out of costume and Snow White was just tired of pictures.
My kids LOVE to dress up.  But honestly . . . I'm over it.  We've been dressing up for the past 31 days.  Or at least that's what it feels like!  The month began with dress-like-your-favorite-book-character at school.  And then there was pink week.  The following week was red week.  And there were designated dress up days EVERY DAY.  For TWO weeks.  And then this week was Dolly Dingkle week at dance.  That's just cute and fancy for "we don't celebrate Halloween, but this is how we celebrate Halloween."  And this is how Dolly D showed up this year.
This picture makes me smile.  They say boys will be boys.  But girls will be girls!
And now here we are on October 31.  It seemed the costumes of choice this year were Elsa (I even overheard one of the teachers in the hallway at school today comment that they should've gotten all of the Elsa's together for a head count and a picture) and ninjas.  You can clearly see how that turned out.  Mason decided to follow the crowd, but Hannah Kate continues to march to the beat of her own drum.  I honestly have no idea why she chose Snow White.  We haven't watched that movie lately.  I even told her I'd buy her a new costume this year if she wanted.  Years past I have always told her to go pick something out of her dress-up trunk.  Yes.  I know.  Anyway, she wanted to be Snow White, and the dress in the trunk still fit.
Ellie and I went to Hannah Kate's class party this afternoon.  Hannah Kate came home all excited yesterday about a spider headband she'd made at school.  As you can see, Snow White is proudly wearing her spider headband!
The kids had the best time pinning the eye on the pumpkin.
And then we went to find Mason.  You know the feeling like your heart is walking around outside your chest?  This was one of those moments for me.
Unfortunately, I was not the cool mom today.  Mason begged me to go on his field trip last week, but today he hardly acknowledged me.  He wouldn't even ride home with us and chose instead to ride the bus!

This evening Seth and I took the kids to a fall festival at a local church.  They were already super tired after a long and busy week, but they enjoyed it.  And they all fell asleep on the way home.

Next week is Homecoming Week.  But thank goodness the decision was made that only the middle school and high school will dress up each day!  Because I totally think "too much of a good thing" is applicable here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Graduation Day

Yesterday was Graduation Day . . . no more private therapy, no more afternoon trips to Baton Rouge, no more fighting traffic and wondering if we're going to make it to our appointment on time, no more sitting in a waiting room for an hour trying to entertain and contain a 2-year old, no more late nights of homework, no more missed naps to line up in the carpool line, no more no more no more NO MORE!  This has been such a good, good thing for Mason, and private therapy essentially saved his elementary education career.  But NO MORE!
We made it there in time to spend a few minutes on the playground before Mason's first session.  I told the kids to give me their most excited faces so we could take an "usie."
But I really stink at taking "usies."
And I'm not sure since when excited translated into sticking your tongue out of your mouth.  But whatever.
As Mason was in his last two therapy sessions, I sat in the waiting room . . . the same waiting room that has become almost like my second home during the past year and a half . . . the same waiting room that I can tell you every single thing about, every single chair, every single paint chip on the wall, every single light bulb, every single magazine . . . the same waiting room where Ellie broke her arm earlier this year.  I can still smell it.  I can still hear the buzzer on the door every time it opens.  I can still see the parents' and kids' faces and hear their voices who have appointments on the same days that we do.  I know exactly when the therapists are going to come out with one child and take another one back.  

I did figure out that we spend a minimum of 8 hours each week on therapy.  That includes car pool lines, travel time, therapy time.  And that's on a "good" week.  But I didn't figure out how many hours I've sat in that waiting room.  When we first started going to therapy, Ellie was still a baby.  She was in her infant carrier so I would snap her seat down in the stroller.  When she would get fussy, I'd push that stroller around and around and around in circles in that lobby.  When she outgrew her infant carrier, I still kept her in the stroller.  I'd push her around and around and around in circles in that lobby.  And then the day came when I just couldn't keep her in that stroller anymore.  She was everywhere and into everything.  And I always tried to make sure I brought something for Hannah Kate to do while we waited.  That's a long wait for a child.

And so as I sat there on our very last day, I thought about all of the sights and sounds and smells and people and waiting I'd done in that very room.  I thought about all the growing we've all done there . . . not just Mason but me and Hannah Kate and Ellie, too.  I thought about how very scared I was the very first day we walked in there.  That day is still just as real to me as today is.  I thought about how I can't even remember a time that we didn't have to go there.  That place has become such an intricate part of our lives, of my life especially.

And just like our lives did a year and a half ago, they are about to change again.  We get 8 hours back!  I can not even imagine!  Yes, I was excited yesterday.  Super excited.  But I'm also certain that I still don't believe it yet.  Honestly, I was rather frustrated with myself, almost disappointed, because I didn't feel as excited as I wanted to.  But I started feeling it last night when I was trying to fall asleep and couldn't!  I hardly slept a wink at all.

We celebrated as much as we could yesterday.  After all, it was still a school night, and everyone still had homework.  When Mason finished, we had balloons for him.  Seth also met us there as well.  I didn't tell Mason he was coming so all of the children were surprised to see Daddy.  
And then we went out to eat supper at Mason's favorite restaurant, which is really just a locally owned fast food chicken fingers joint.  MawMaw and PawPaw met us there, which was another surprise for Mason.
And, of course, no celebration is complete without Mason's favorite cookie cake.  So we had that for dessert.
And then today Mason received these in the mail from Pop and Mimi.  We got such a kick out of the M&Ms with his picture on them!
It still doesn't seem real.  I feel like I need to pinch myself.  I don't know.  Maybe it still won't feel real until next Monday when we have NO WHERE TO GO!

All I know is this.  This whole story right here is a testimony of God's faithfulness.  Nothing more and nothing less.  And that's really what I feel . . . just a whole lot of gratefulness that I can't even put into words because of what God has done for us in this and through this.  He carried me THROUGH.  We are THROUGH.  We went THROUGH. 

When you pass THROUGH the waters, I will be with you;
And THROUGH the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk THROUGH the fire, you shall not be burned,
nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Since you were precious in My sight,
you have been honored, and I have loved you.
~Isaiah 44:2-4

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mason: I'm bombing reading now!


THIS OCTOBER 27, 2014!!!!!!

12 DAYS!!!!!!



And everybody everywhere said, "Amen!"

So look.  Here's the deal.  Am I excited?  YES!  That is an understatement.  But I am honestly so worn out by the emotion of it all that I don't even feel it right now.  It's just surreal.  I don't believe it.  I mean, I do.  But I don't.  I just can't believe that day is finally almost here!  

I went to lunch with a dear friend yesterday.  She asked me, as so many do, how we came to find out that Mason is dyslexic.  So I shared an abbreviated version of our story.  I say abbreviated.  It was a long story, and yet I didn't even tell her all the details of it.  I told her that by the time 2nd grade came, there were some dark days.  I was in a tunnel, and I couldn't even see a flicker of light at the end of it.  It was exactly two years ago this month that we finally figured out why Mason was struggling so much to read.  At that time, not only did I not see even a flicker of light, but I also thought I would NEVER see that flicker.  That was exactly two years ago this month.

And then a year later . . . October one year ago . . . I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  And it wasn't just flickering.  It was shining bright.  There were still long, hard days.  But then something happened.  It took two long years of hard work.  This past May, I felt like I was beginning to walk out of that tunnel.  Well, maybe crawling by this point!  Of course, Mason was flying.

But now I'm standing on the OUTSIDE of that tunnel with my face upturned toward the bright, shining, comforting warmth of the sun's rays.

When Mason's Speech Therapist saw his report card on Monday, she immediately had a conversation with me about him graduating at the end of the month.  She asked me if I was okay with that.  I told her that I'd finally gotten to a place of being okay with it and even more than okay.  Sure, it's a little scary thinking we'll be doing this without the support and expertise of our beloved Ms. Kim.  But one of my goals for Mason this 4th grade year was that he would begin to manage this thing on his own.  And he is!  I told her that I was ready, that I felt certain Mason was ready but that I would only make a decision based on her recommendation.  So she said we would finish out the month, and his last day at speech therapy will be October 27.

That was great.  That was really great!  But there were still two afternoons a week of Educational Therapy.  And I wasn't sure what his Educational Therapist would recommend.  I didn't even ask her on Monday.  I was hoping she would bring it up, but she did not.  And then today we went back.  Again, I was not going to say anything.  But I didn't have to.  Mrs. Sandy told me that she knew he would graduate Speech Therapy on October 27 and asked how I felt about him also graduating Educational Therapy that day, too.  I told her the same thing I'd told Ms. Kim on Monday.  I was ready.  He was ready.  

And then you already know what happened next.  I cried.

I really love one of the things Mrs. Sandy told me today.  She said there will ALWAYS be things that we need to work on; however, she feels like more time at home in the afternoons, more time to spend on homework and even play outside a bit, less time in the truck traveling back and forth to therapy and fighting traffic is much more beneficial to Mason than continuing in Educational Therapy at this point.  He is doing it.  He really is doing it!  And it's time.  He met and exceeded all of the goals set for him the year and a half ago that we began this adventure of private therapy and remediation.

And that's just it.  It will never be perfect.  And it will never be "fixed" or "healed."  But it's not about perfection (and this from a recovering perfectionist).  It's about excellence . . . doing it with excellence.  That's what Mason is doing!  He is no longer two grade levels behind in reading.  He is ON grade level.  And he is doing it with excellence.

So as soon as we got in the truck to leave, I asked Mason what he thought about being finished with EVERYTHING.

Mason:  Yeah, cause I'm bombing reading now!

Me (going from sheer elation to sheer panic in 0.1 second. Because what happened at school today that he didn't tell me?):  WHAT??!!??

Mason:  I'm bombing reading!

Me:  Wait . . . you mean you're DA BOMB in reading?!

Mason:  Yeah.  That's it.

Me (sigh of relief):  Yes.  Yes, you are.  Da bomb.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fall, where art thou?

Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.

That's what I feel like these days.

Except it's go to school.  Carpool.  Therapy.  Homework.  Repeat.

And that really sums up our days since my last post over a month ago!  Of course, Ellie and I are going to Bible study on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, too.  I can't even begin to tell you how exciting it is to study the life of Moses!  But that's a whole different post.

It's fall.  Or at least the calendar says so.  But the weather?  Not so much.  At all.  It was in the 90s all week, and it just feels like summertime.  October is one of my most favorite months.  But this picture was taken on October 1.  Need I say more?!
I'm really ready to hang up my shorts and pull out my leggings, tunics and boots.  They are lined up in my closet and calling my name.  But in the meantime, we're just pretending like it's fall and doing fall-ish activities.

Mason and Hannah Kate look for the pumpkin to make his appearance every year. 
A couple of weekends ago, Hannah Kate and I made pumpkin snicker doodles.  They really were very good!  But I was also reminded why I don't bake.  These actually turned out the way I wanted them to, which is unusual in my baking experiences.  But after the day we ate them, no one ate anymore of them.  Except me.  And I don't need to eat two dozen cookies!  None of the people in my house have my sweet tooth.
I made the first gumbo of the season.  It was hot that day so I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.  And then Seth told me it was the wrong color.  I stood and stirred that roux for 20 minutes, and I was done.  Besides, I'm also certain that the "wrong color" did not affect the taste.  But that also might have been not only my first gumbo of the season but also my last!  I also perfected my baked potato and French onion soup recipes.  I don't prepare soups during the summer months so I've really enjoyed cooking lately.  If it ever gets below 90 degrees, I'm going to make my vegetable soup next.  That's always my favorite.

And football!  I can't talk about fall without talking about football!  Last Saturday was a really exciting football day.  We were Hailing State and doing the Hotty Toddy!  I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for the Magnolia State.  We lived there for two years.  That's where Hannah Kate was born.  And I forged some really sweet friendships there.  We LOVED our church.  We had Ole Miss friends, and we had State friends.  Those were the days when both of those teams were pretty much irrelevant.  But not anymore!  GameDay was there last week and again this week.

And today has been a fun football day, too.  I didn't get to see my Georgia Dawgs play.  Besides that hiccup at South Carolina, I'm enjoying my team this year.  And I was super excited today when it was all about the team effort and not just one.  That's all I have to say about that.  I did get to see some of the Mississippi Dawgs' game.  It made me want a cowbell!  We're watching the LSU game right now (and I'm really hoping LSU can pull this one out and beat Florida . . . and they just did!  THEY WON!), but I'm looking forward to watching the Ole Miss game in a bit.

Our school system has never given us a fall break in the years since Mason started school.  But that changed this year.  We have fall break this coming Monday and Tuesday.  And I. can't. wait.  We still have all of our extra-cirrucular activities, but I'm so very thankful for a little break from the school day grind.

Speaking of school . . . the most common question I always get asked is how Mason is doing.  Well, Mason came home with his report card yesterday, and we all did a little happy dance.  I'd been told over and over that "4th grade will be hardest year . . . if you can just get through 4th grade . . ."  Well, not only are we getting through 4th grade, but Mason is flying pretty high right now!  I am so proud of him and the effort he puts forth EVERY. DAY.  He is relentless.  And it showed on his report card.  Don't get me wrong.  It's hard.  And we spend 2-3 hours each day on homework and studying.  But he's got 4th grade!  I was hoping that this would be the year when he begins to learn how to manage his learning differences on his own and even begin to overcome them a bit.  And I see that happening.

He's been working toward the goal of graduating from private therapy in December.  It is possible that we will have a conversation next week about graduating even sooner than that.  I haven't been able to say this before, but I really think he is ready now.  I am ready, too.  But we'll just have to see.

A couple of weeks ago the kids got to dress up as a character from their favorite book.  Hannah Kate was Nancy Clancy (the growing-up Fancy Nancy), and Mason was Geronimo Stilton.  We had to improvise a lot for Geronimo.  He wears a white collar shirt, red tie, green vest and coat.  It was also 90 degrees on this day so by the time Mason got home, the tie and green "vest" were stuffed in his backpack.    
Last Saturday I took Hannah Kate out for a Mommy-Daughter Day.  This girl is so precious, so special.  She is cruising through school and currently reading on a 3rd grade level.  She is such a great sister to both Mason and Ellie.  I love this girl SO. MUCH.  It's hard sometimes because I feel like Hannah Kate gets caught between the hours I spend each day with Mason and homework and therapy and then with Ellie because she is 2 years old and requires a lot of supervision and support.  I feel like I spend so much focused time with Mason and Ellie but not necessarily with her.  So this was my day with Hannah Kate.
And Ellie?  Everyday is a new day with this girl.  I never know what she's going to say or what she's going to do.  She is definitely a mommy's girl.  But she's also beginning to show some signs of independence.  Someone told me the other day that she "has quite the personality."  Yes.  Yes, she does.  She makes me laugh all the time.  She also makes me want to pull out my hair sometimes.  Her vocabulary has exploded lately.  I find that I am probably hyper-sensitive in my attention to her language skills development.  So every new word, every sentence, every sound, every book she brings me to read is exciting.  I also have to mention that she has progressed from calling her big sister Kate to Sissy and now to Hannie.  It's the cutest thing! 
Today we did something that we haven't done in over 14 years.  I'll leave you guessing on that one.  And then we took a drive through our old neighborhood and saw the very first house that Seth and I bought, the house that we loved into a home and eventually brought Mason home to.  It's actually for sale right now.  And, of course, I'm looking forward to our "fall break" this week.  And next Saturday will be a really big, fun day as we give Mason quite a surprise.  Seth and I have been keeping a secret for a couple of months now.  And maybe, just maybe, it will also begin to FEEL like fall at some point this next week.

It's this time of year that's my favorite.  It's also this time of year that I miss my family and my friends the most.  I really miss my Mama a lot these days.  I see pictures all the time on FaceBook of my friends and their moms hanging out together and doing fun things together.  It's almost sad to me.  I want to do those things with MY mom.  She would help me sew new pillow covers and curtains for my windows.  She would help me fix the hem on three of Ellie's smocked dresses that has come apart after years of two little girls wearing them.  She might would even cook me supper one night!  My bestie reminded me the other day that next year will be 15 years since our college graduation.  That also means it's been 15 years since I left the Peach State.  15 years.

One of my favorite childhood movies is The Karate Kid.  And one of my favorite scenes is the conversation between Daniel and his mom after she sees him throw his bike away.  He'd had another run in with the Cobra Gang.  It was quite a poignant scene.  He finally tells her, "I just want to go home.  Why can't we just go home?"  That's how I feel these days.  You'd think after 15 years that I wouldn't be feeling that way.  Or that it would get better or even go away.  But it doesn't.  Sometimes it seems like it just gets even stronger.  But one of the things I've learned during these past almost 15 years is that "home" really isn't about the where.  It's about the who.  I just wish I could take all of my who's and move to the where!