Sunday, January 31, 2010

Seasons of Love

On January 29, Bella celebrated her 8th birthday. Every year I am amazed about how much she has been through and achieved in her short time on earth. As any of you with special needs children know there are many emotions you experience over the years with them.

It starts with the initial pang of uncertainty and doubt when faced with the initial diagnosis. Will I be able to handle this? Am I strong enough to make the right decisions for them? How will this affect the rest of our family? This time reminds me of Winter. The world feels cold around you and all you see for miles is the snowy path that seems slippery and unsure. Hearing that Bella had moderate brain damage after her illness and that she might never walk or talk, left me on the floor gasping for breath. Soon after, we learned the illness had also left her with profound deafness. It was as if a wintry blizzard had overtaken my mind. All I could see was a complete whiteout. I have learned to cope with this season by continuing to put one foot in front of the other even when the ground feels so unsteady that you are sure it will crumble. Making forward progress is important in order to move on to the waiting seasons.

Just as in nature, when you are sure that the rest of your days will be filled with icicles and freezing temperatures, it is then that you hear the faint sweet song of a robin. At first, you question if you really heard anything at all or if it was just wishful thinking. I can remember hearing Bella say "kitty" for the first time and thinking I was imagining it. We worked for months when she was a tiny infant to have her roll over on her right side. It was so difficult for her coordinating her muscles on her right side due to the brain damage from the meningitis. Then one day she did it! Spring is all about hope and renewed faith. It is truly wonderful to see hardwork from therapy pay off in a miraculous moment you feared you might never see.

After the first buds of promise come in Spring, Summer comes close behind. Full flowers emerge and the world is green. It is easier to think about possibilities and also how to attack challenges when the sun is shining warmly on your face. Progress is being made and while there are always some challenges that arise, they are not overwhelming at this point. I think back to when Bella began walking with unsteady steps around 16 months. She was extremely unbalanced, partly due to the large cochlear implant body worn processors that swung on either side of her body with each step she took. The progress she was making with receptive and expressive language and the simple fact that she was WALKING, made it easier to swallow the difficulties she had; falling every few feet. Then you wake up one morning and notice a slight chill in the air. Change is coming once more...

Of all of the seasons, I think Autumn, is the most beautiful. It is a time of reflection on what has worked best and what didn't work over the last few months. Is more therapy needed to reach another level? What other challenges have appeared now that the child is growing older? Schedules are rearranged to fit the needs. Reviewing past memories produce some that are a beautiful like the gold and orange leaves in the trees, while others remain green and dull. In Bella's case, her implants are checked in the Fall to ensure they are working properly and also reprogram them to achieve the highest level of sound quality. There is also another kind of reflection that sometimes happens as you review the previous months. Seeing another child the same age as my child with no disability has at times put a cold shiver up my spine, if only for a moment. It is difficult to see how easy the monkey bars can be for another little girl or how she doesn't struggle to hear her Mom call her in the loud, noisy playground filled with lots of noise. Like the day warms up after a cool morning in Autumn, I push this chill away from my soul. Focusing on what my child can't do will not produce the confident child I desire. Yes, she has challenges, but it is my job to teach her how to work around them to the best of her ability not dwell on them.

Then before you know it the winds have changed once more and the chill that was only lasting in the early morning has crept in to last the whole day. Another major obstacle has been placed in your way. One that you were not expecting and you are not sure you will be able to handle. One cool February when Bella was two, we were told one of her implants had become infected and would need to be removed. It meant surgery to remove it and surgery a few months later to put it back in after the infection had been treated. Again, it is time to take a deep breath, walk forward, no matter how slow. It is the forward progress that is important. Winter is back now, but Spring will be here soon...

Happy 8th Birthday Bella! You are amazing!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Little Bit of This, a Little Bit of That..

Okay, it has been six days since the tragic end to the Vikings season and I am feeling more like myself again. I myself couldn't watch the game after the Favre interception late in the 4th quarter, but hearing Harry break into hysterical sobs gave me an inkling into how the game had ended.

Life has been fairly quiet. Harry has started taking racquetball lessons and is enjoying it for the most part. Of course, he is disappointed that he is not super good at it already (you know after 2 lessons), but it is good exercise for him. He is also in swimming lessons again once a week. Winter can be brutal for Harry without an outlet for his energy! He is continuing his work with Destination Imagination afterschool. The team has been working hard on their play that they wrote have to perform at competition on March 6th. They also got their robot working this week that they had to build. Now its on to build sets and continue to practice their "instant challenges" where the team has 3-5 minutes to work together to and solve a problem that is assigned. Last week we found out that Harry was accepted to Eagle Ridge Academy which is a charter school in Eden Prairie that focuses on a classical education. It runs 6-12 grade and we are excited to try it for middle school, but will take it one step at a time to see how it fits for Harry.

Becca is off to Concordia Language Camp this week with some other middle school students from her school and her Spanish teacher. The theme is Peru and all the food and activities center around the country. We are anxiously awaiting to see if Becca will be able to attend Chanhassen High School through open enrollment. Apparently we won't find out until Feb. 15.

Bella has been keeping busy with swimming. Today during her swimming evaluation it came up that her teacher feels she has achieved enough skills to try a group lesson with 3 other kids instead of a private lesson. Bella really wants to try the group lesson and even though it won't give her as much time to work on additional skills, it might really help her reinforce and strengthen some key skills as she sees the other children do it. She does have the competitive gene in her for better or worse.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pants on the Ground

So it is mid January in Minnesota. I'm not much of a winter person so it is a bit of a "down in the dumps" time for me. Holiday decorations are put away, but for some reason the snow and cold refuse to be boxed up neatly until next year quite yet. In my book, there are three things I look forward to in January that help me going until Spring: American Idol, Playoff football and Girl Scout cookie sales.

This past week American Idol Season 9 debuted and it did not disappoint! I really am not a fan of the early weeks with all of the auditions. Usually it is the judges laughing away at untalented people desperate for a few minutes of fame, but this year there was a spark of light. General Larry Platt, a 62 year old man with an original song, "Pants on the Ground", that for some unknown reason has captured the nation. I don't know why the song is catchy or fun, but it makes me smile. Even after hearing it sung by Harry and Bella about a million times, it still puts me in a good mood. If you haven't seen it yet, check out this link : Bet you can't get it out of your head!

On to playoff football. As a family of Vikings fans, we were excited that the Vikings had captured a 1st round bye in the playoffs. I have to admit that the Vikings 1998 NFC loss to Atlanta has caused Erick and I to become a bit fatalistic about Vikings games. The more you let yourself invest, the bigger the depression and heartbreak when the bottom drops out. Harry has already felt the losses hard this season and does not take them well. Anyway, we hoped for the best as the Vikings played the Cowboys this past Sunday and we were on top of the world when they walked away with a huge win. After the game, Brett Favre was shown in the locker room singing "Pants on the Ground" with his teammates. Guess it puts a smile on his face too! Next week onto the Superdome in New Orleans. We cross our fingers and hope for a win, knowing that we have once again given too much of ourselves and we will have a very hard time recovering if they lose.

Lastly, January brings Girl Scout cookie sales. This year Bella is a Brownie and is able to sell cookies door to door. She set her sales goal high and was excited to go out and sell. We walked around the neighborhood and she did a great job of introducing herself and asking people if they would like to buy some cookies. She had to answer questions about when the cookies would come, how much they were, and if payment was due at the time of purchase or delivery. I was very proud of her. As the mother of a deaf child, it was yet again one of those moments where it may seem so trivial, but without the invention of the cochlear implants and her success with them, it wouldn't have been a moment she could have experienced.

Other highlights in January will include Bella's 8th birthday, Harry's 1st racquetball lesson and a swim meet for Bella. Then onto February: a step closer to Spring!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Whew...We Made It...

Wow, I am happy (and a little surprised) to tell you that we made it through week 1 of the new year. Last Monday morning was just as awful and difficult as I had feared. Becca and Harry have piano before school on Monday mornings so 7am came early with some bad attitudes. I am happy to report that as the week went on, basic routines, such as getting up on time, became easier.

On Wednesday, Bella and I watched the last remnants of the holiday season go up in smoke, literally! Our church had an Epiphany celebration where people were encouraged to bring their Christmas trees to be burned. We would have brought ours, but since I lost interest in watering it for the last week in our house, I feared only its branches would have made it to the fire, with all of its green needles left behind in my car for the rest of eternity. I have to say I was quite amazed by the tree burning. Every time a new tree was placed in the fire, the flames would shoot about 15-20 in the sky and there was loud popping and crackling noises. I guess I wasn't the only one who stopped watering their tree! It sure was a testament to the fire dangers of keeping a dead tree in your house and would have made for a great PSA.

Next week we take on a few more additions to our schedule as Harry begins a racquetball class and Becca resumes rehearsals for her class play. Erick will be traveling to New York so I will be flying solo and hoping everything goes smoothly. I will also be praying for a winter warm-up as it is currently -10 degrees here. Yes, that is the actual air temperature. There is talk of getting some mid 20's by early next week. Wow, a 30 degree temperature swing. Wish it could be 30 degrees to 60 degrees instead!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Twenty-ten vs. Two thousand and ten...

2010 is here. I am excited to see what this decade will bring for the world as well as our family, but a little concerned as well. I don't think it's a good omen to have people so confused about how to say the upcoming year or what to call the new decade. Is it twenty-ten or two thousand and ten? Is it the "tweens" or is it the "10's"? Will we switch at 2013 and call it the "teens" ? Our world has enough problems and I have to admit it is a little disconcerting that there is no clear answer on these problems that we usually have no problem with. Well onward and upward I guess...

The Rowe family spent New Years Eve in a relaxed fashion. We went bowling in the afternoon eating all the pizza we could eat (which I have to say is quite a lot). None of us had scores worth repeating, but we had fun. Well, Harry was a little disappointed that he couldn't beat Becca, but he got over it. Erick tried to teach Bella how to bowl without bumpers for the first game, but the second game taught all of us that the game can be more fun with the bumpers up! After a trip to Lunds in the afternoon to pick up some last minute necessities, it was home to start our yearly food traditions. We ate lots of brie and french bread while playing the game Apples to Apples. It was fun that Bella was old enough this year to participate more in the game. Then we watched the movies "Up" and "Enchanted". Two feel good movies to set the tone for the New Year. Erick, Harry and Bella stayed up to greet the New Year in central time, but Becca and I only made it to eastern time.

Today will be a day to catch up on sleep and enjoy some more family time. With all of this slow moving, Monday is going to be hard to handle when schedules and commitments return.

Best wishes to everyone for a wonderful 2010; however you choose to pronounce it!