Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Apraxia Awareness Day

Today is Apraxia Awareness Day.

Our little girl, Bristol, has apraxia of speech and has difficulty with motor planning. Basically, she doesn't always have the words to say what she wants to say. She is three and uses about a dozen signs and has a vocabulary of around 75 words.

We were concerned about her vocabulary at 18 months and were told that it was probably because she is the third child and has her siblings to speak for her (though I disagreed), and were encouraged to wait until she turned two.
At her two year well visit, I was still concerned and we were referred to Early Intervention. After going through a battery of screenings (speech, hearing, vision, OT), we began speech therapy last May. Our therapist would come to our house once a week and she was great! She would basically play games with Bristol, but make her repeat a certain sound in order to get another piece of the game to play with. We learned so many tips and tricks from Marlo over the last year, and Bristol has come a long way.

Early Intervention ends at age three, but we continued to work with our therapist on a part time basis privately. About a month ago, Bristol was moved up to the 3 year old class at daycare and her speech has drastically improved since then! We are working with another therapist over the summer, and are excited that Bristol will be in full day county preschool starting in the fall, and she will be able to receive speech therapy at school.

When I first learned about Bristol's speech delay, I found this quote from the founder of CASANA (Childhood Apraxia of Speech of North America), Sharon Gretz: " It's okay to be sad and okay to be mad. This is nothing that anyone wanted for their child. It is also a confusing time, an overwhelming time. Take a week and let it all out. Be mad, sad, cry, get angry. And then you need to pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and get on with the work ahead. The work is to learn about apraxia of speech so that you can be the very best advocate you can be for your child. You need to do it and you WILL do it. You will do it because you must, because that beautiful child of yours is counting on you to help her become the best that she can be." I think this holds true for any parent of a child with special needs.

I have definitely been through the range of emotions. I feel sad when I see a younger child speaking in complete sentences or telling her mommy that she loves her. But I am so proud of my little girl and of the improvement that she has made in the last year. I love hearing her sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in words that mostly only I can understand. My heart skips a beat when I ask her a question and she enthusiastically responds "Yeah, Mommy!" I love watching her play with her siblings "Sissy" and "Bruh-bruh." Some words are so clear, and words that I would think would be hard- like "purple." She can't say her own name yet, but recently when you ask her what her name is, she has started saying "B!" She is obsessed with horses- "neigh neighs." And she's three, so she's constantly getting into everything!

I seriously cannot wait for the day that she says "I love you, Mommy." I know that she will get there, and we will be supporting her every step of the way. We can't wait to see all the good that continues to happen in her little life!

"And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes." - Romans 8:28

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2013 In Review

2013 was a crazy, tough, fun year of growth.

Some crazy stuff:

We moved our little family across the country. This after a whirlwind 3-day visit to see the camp, find a place to live and a daycare for the girls (check, check and check!).

We poured a 3 bedroom house, garage and backyard shed into a 2 bedroom condo.

Our baby girl lived in our closet. Well, not exactly a closet. The little area next to our closet.

Three young kids keeps our life pretty crazy.

Some tough stuff:
Brayden had to change schools midway through the year and got a mouth full of metal with palate expanders and a few braces.

We moved away from the town where we lived for ten years, our work "family," and our church.

Kenny became a stay-at-home dad for two months.

Kenny and I lived in separate cities for four months. I had the kids at camp all summer while he worked in Denver and came to see us on the weekends.

Bristol was diagnosed with a speech delay and started speech therapy. We are pleased with her improvement and are looking at special preschools for her.

Bristol and I were in Estes Park during the flooding in September. The camp driveway complete washed out and there was some damage to our three properties in Estes and Glen Haven. Things could have been much worse, and we are on track to run all of our programs as scheduled in 2014.

Our house in Virginia was on the market for one year and didn't sell. We will be renting it out, but are a bit apprehensive about it.

Our finances have been a bit of a challenge juggling everything. Thankfully, we took Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University last fall and feel really good about our plans. We have gotten really good at finding free and low cost activities, couponing, and not spending money in general.

We lost Kenny's aunt Barbara and his dad, Buddy. It has been difficult to be so far away from the rest of our family.

Some fun stuff:
Brinley started Kindergarten. She loves it!

We have settled in to a new church and are making friends.

Moving from a rural suburb of a smaller town, we love having everything nearby. Gas stations, grocery stores, thrift stores, Target, Walgreens, tons of dining options.

Brayden and Brinley played t-ball and baseball for the first time.

Brinley took dance lessons for the first time.

Bristol continued to be her smiley, adorable self.

We paid off our student loans! 

I finally got a sister (in law) and we have our first niece, Carlee!

A 3,150 mile Christmas road trip to Mississippi.

I love my job at Cheley Colorado Camps.

We have had a great time exploring Rocky Mountain National Park.

I saw lots of animals: bighorn sheep, bobcat, marmot, elk, black bear and moose.

I ran my first 10K- the Bolder Boulder in Boulder, Colorado.

We celebrated 10 years of marriage.

We have spent a LOT of family time together!

We're looking forward to seeing what 2014 holds!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

X-Rays for the Little One

Thanksgiving morning, I plop Bristol down on the counter at Children's Urgent Care and tell them that I think she may have eaten a staple. "You said that so calmly," the receptionist tells me. I reply: "Well, she's child number three and this is our first possibly swallowed item, so I think we may be due for one. And she seems totally fine."

Flash back to 8:30 am, when Brayden runs in from his room announcing "Bristol just ate some paper and it had a staple on it!" A chunk of paper is missing from her Pilgrim hat. We cannot tell if it contained a staple or not. She is fine- no coughing, no choking, she is grinning.

I decide to see what I can find on the internet. 
Yep, better call the pediatrician on call. He recommends we get it checked out because it is a sharp object. A marble- no big deal, but this could cut her insides up. Refer to above photo.

In the car, the first song I hear is Building 429's We Won't Be Shaken.

The doctor checks her out and all seems fine. We went for some x-rays which showed...wait for staple! 

Well, that was fun!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Operation Christmas Child

For the last few years our family has enjoyed packing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. It is a ministry of Samaritan's Purse and is a fun project for the whole family. The concept is simple: pack a shoe box with toys, candy, toiletries, school supplies and $7 to cover shipping. Samaritan's Purse delivers the boxes to children all over the world, along with the Gospel of Jesus in the language of the kids who are receiving the boxes. We usually pack one box per child, but this year we were excited to be able to pack 31 boxes without spending a ton of money!

Many items came from Dollar Tree. I try to buy multi-packs of items that can be split between several boxes.

I also stocked up on school supplies when they were on sale and got a bunch of cups, water bottles and utensils 70-90% off at Dollar General.

I saw a simple sewing kit on Pinterest and made these for around $.20 each. I bought buttons, thread, safety pins and needles and split them up into small ziplock bags. I put the needles through a small square of felt. Next year I want to find tiny sewing scissors to include.

Dollar General also had shoes 90% off, so I got all of these for less than $1 each, including some nice tennis shoes and some cool light up sandals. I bought all they had and hit up the other Dollar General in our area as well. I wanted to include shoes in every box and had already purchased some flip flops for $1 at Dollar Tree, and was so excited to find these!

We found some no-sew hat and scarf kits that I picked up a while back at Jo-Ann's Fabric on clearance and we had never used. Brayden and Brinley were so excited to make these for their boxes! We could easily re-create these for next year.

The kids enjoyed sorting and bagging candy, and then we included some of their leftover Halloween candy, too.

Our Sunday School class was having a packing party, but I knew it wasn't reasonable to think I could pack boxes with three kids running around (and turns out Kenny got called into work and couldn't make it to the party), so we pre-packed ours. We used some of the green and red OCC boxes, some plastic shoe boxes and some regular shoe boxes that we wrapped. For this picture, we didn't have all of our boxes yet, so we were improvising with some other sized boxes and bags.

We ended up with 26 boxes, which I thought was significant because I want to run a marathon at some point, and am planning on a half marathon in June. But then we received some extra money and decided to pack five more boxes, bringing our total to 31. Another significant number for me because I am a consultant for Thirty-One Gifts. The name comes from Proverbs 31, which talks about the virtuous woman.

We had a packing party with our Sunday School class. Everyone brought their goodies and we pooled them all and packed boxes together. First, we prayed for the children who would be receiving our boxes. We prayed that they would know God's love and want to learn more about Him. 

I made this cake for dessert. 

We had lots of little helpers- around 50 people in all! 

Our goal was 100 boxes and we hit 102!

I love this quote that came from a blog called Muthering Heights: 
          Who will tell these girls, living in such poverty, that they're beautiful? Who will tell them they are precious, unique, irreplaceable? Who will tell them they matter....that God knows their name and the number of hairs on their darling little heads? YOU WILL. You will tell them with hairbows and pencils and strawberry candies. You will tell them with notebook paper and silly bandz and a a toothbrush and socks. With a little box of gifts that says "I see you. Jesus sees you too, and he calls you beautiful."

National collection week starts now! You can return boxes to participating churches, Chick-Fil-A restaurants and LifeWay Christian stores. Click here for details. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Life is Precious

The recent news about the church bus crash in Indiana hit close to home. My heart is breaking for the kids on the bus and trip, the family of the mom that was killed, the little boy of the pastor & his wife who were killed, the bus driver and everyone in that church family.

Almost twenty years ago, a church youth group van crash changed my life. I was on a middle school church ski trip in Pennsylvania. The 15-passenger van I was riding in hit a patch of ice, skidded and rolled. Some people were thrown from the van, some were pinned inside, and the rest of us climbed out the broken window.

Our friend Ann Marie, who had already struggled with childhood illnesses like a hole in her heart and a stroke, didn't survive. Her parents were chaperones in our van and her dad was driving.

My injuries were minor, but my world was changed. When you're 12, you think you are invincible and can do anything you want without fear of consequences. As my friends and I prayed by the side of the road that morning, things got real.

In that moment, I decided that I wanted to be a doctor or a nurse, and in high school I became an EMT.

In that moment, death became real.

In that moment, my faith was made strong.

In that moment, life became more precious.

I think about that accident and Ann Marie often. I think of all of the things that she never got to do because her life was cut short. Prom, high school graduation, college, marriage, babies. It's always a reminder to be thankful for this live that I'm living and all of the blessings that I have.

Why? Why do bad things happen to good people? Sometimes it doesn't make any sense. But I know that it's all part of the bigger picture and that God has a perfect plan.

My life verse, which came out of my accident, is Romans 8:28 "All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes."

There is hope. I'm looking for the good!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Running Tribute to Melanie

Last July I signed up for a 5K and started running with Hannah Dunn at Camp Horizons in the early mornings. In September, I joined a group of ladies from my church to run the 5K- the first for several of us. Katie Welborn was my encourager and dropped back to run with me. I ran the whole thing and was so proud of myself! I did another 5K a few weeks later and improved my time slightly. I was hooked.

The winter months were consumed with our move to Denver and I didn't run much at all. I heard great things about the BolderBoulder10K in May, but wasn't sure I'd be up to it this year with very little training and running at higher elevation.

Then, my friend and former camp counselor Melanie's health took a turn for the worse. She had been fighting a rare liver cancer for almost two years and was also a runner. She passed away in April and I signed up to run in her memory and started training. All of a sudden I was going for hour-long runs when I used to get stressed at the thought of having to run one mile. Who was this girl?!

I quickly discovered that running is more mental than physical. I set goals, pinned inspirational quotes on Pinterest and didn't stop a run until I was finished. It was not easy!

I asked friends to sponsor me as a ran my first 10K and all of the money raised went to support Melanie's family. I was blown away by the amount of support I received. Thank you, thank you to all who supported me!

Two weeks before the race, I ran 5 miles and then my knee started bothering me. No pain, just kind of an achiness. Ugggh- what to do?! I did not want to miss the race, but also wanted to make smart decisions for my body. I took a complete break from running and wore a brace. 

May 27 came quickly and I was ready to go! My family dropped me off at the start and I joined the 47,000+ other runners.
 My first race with a shoe timing tag- real deal!
 Ready to run!
 Course summit: 5,391 feet elevation.
 The finish was at Folsom Field at CU and it was pretty incredible to run into this packed stadium.
 I did it! I ran the whole way! 6.2 miles.

The race atmosphere was really amazing! It winds through neighborhoods where people are out on their front lawns having a party. There were people spraying us with sprinklers, offering Doritos and cupcakes (I had both!), hula hoopers, people running in costumes, lots of live music and people of all ages running. My knee didn't bother me at all- yeay! When I was getting tired, I would think about Mel and how she endured chemo and lots of other unpleasant things. If she could deal with that, I could certainly run 6.2 little miles.

My official time was 1:25:26, which was ahead of my goal time of 1:30. I placed 411 out of 562 in my division (that's not last!) and 14,260 out of 23,308 women. I'm so proud that I finished and ran in Melanie's honor. I'm sure that she was watching and cheering me on every step of the way!

Melanie wrote a children's book about cancer, based largely on her experiences with her two young children, Autumn and Reid. You can learn more about her project here.