Sunday, August 22, 2010

Move Over Bob Dylan...

So you'll never guess what Bella and I did today. Give up? Well, it involved a musical instrument and a parade. Bella and I went to a workshop about how to play the harmonica. We found out about it on one of our homeschooling list-serves. It was sponsored by Hohner, a company that makes harmonicas. The session was held at a hotel by the Mall of America where there was a regional harmonica convention going on. It was completely free, kids and adults each received a free harmonica and there were box lunches served. What a deal!

The session offered fun beginning lessons on how to make a train whistle sound with the harmonica, and also how to play a few easy songs including "Jingle Bells" and "Mary had a Little Lamb". Bella really enjoyed the fun atmosphere and she loved trying out new sounds on her harmonica. We were both surprised with how much energy it took to play the harmonica. After an hour of almost solid practicing, our lungs were tired. There was someone there who spoke about the health benefits of playing the harmonica and now I believe it!

Other highlights from the day included a man who had a skunk puppet who played the harmonica (one of Bella's favorite parts of the morning), learning about the different types and sizes of harmonicas (who knew there was more than one size?), and watching all the kids go around the hotel playing the train whistle (and other musical musings) on their brand new harmonicas.

It was a fun day for Bella, since she doesn't really have a musical instrument that she plays yet. Sometimes I think she feels left out when her brother and sister perform their piano pieces on the piano for visiting friends and relatives. I am hoping someday we will find a musical instrument that is a good fit for her. Today, was one step on that journey...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Can You Hear Me Now?

Today Bella had her yearly check up at Mayo Clinic for her implants. It's always a bit of an event since it is two hours away. This year we were up bright and early and had to leave by 9:30am. It's never as easy as just driving there and parking. There's always construction, a super busy parking ramp, or something to impede our timely arrival. This year we found out that they had moved the cochlear implant facility to a new building so we had to hurry and find it before our appointment. Always something..

Once we arrived at our appointment the fun began. Our first appointment was for mapping and programming Bella's implants. It went well and the implants were in working order. We had just replaced both of her controllers this summer (thank goodness for that extended warranty) due to wear issues, so the audiologist commented on how brand new they looked. Moving onto testing, Bella once again demonstrated the advantages of early implantation by her outstanding scores. Here they are:
CNC Monosyllabic Words List 5 in quiet 96% words correct 97% phonemes correct
AZBio Sentences List 4 in quiet 96% words correct.
The Mayo staff commented that Bella is performing at the ceiling of speech perception measures. Bella was also asked to participate in two studies that Mayo is conducting regarding hearing in noise. It was similar to studies that she has been in at Madison. I don't have the results yet and will update when I do.
The only change made to her implant program was combining ADRO and ASC together. This was done after Mayo's research that it helps users hear better in loud environments. Bella says her voice a little strange, but I think she will get used to it. I am anxious to see if it helps in loud restaurants.
After her implant programming we went to lunch at Pannekoeken restaurant which was Bella's favorite stop last year and she wanted to return. She loves when they yell "Pannekoeken" when they bring your order.
After lunch, Bella had her speech-language examination. She had the OWLS test (Oral and Written Language Scales) and the Test of Narrative Language (TNL).
On the OWLS she scored at the 47th percentile age equivalent of 8 years 5 months on the listening comprehension portion. On the oral expression section she scored in the 16th percentile age equivalent 6 years 11 months. Both of these are about the same as last year which indicate progress at the rate of maturation.
On the TNL she scored poor on the Narrative Comprehension due to her short term memory issues. We continue to battle reading comprehension due to her memory problems, but she is improving. Last year she was not given this test because her speech evaluator said she would not be able to complete it. The upside to the TNL test was on the oral narration section Bella scored in the average range. So Bella may have trouble remembering stories when read to her, but she is very good at making up her own!
Overall it was a good visit and set us up to have a good year...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The More Things Change...

With only three weeks left before the kick off to a new school year, I find myself stuck between two quotes. The first is a part of everyday language, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." I have been finding myself feeling a little bit of deja vu in a lot of my daily activities lately. I mean how can you not fill out those registration/emergency forms for school or head to the store for school supplies and not ask yourself, "Didn't I just do this?" Sure a year has gone by. Perhaps some of the items on the school list have changed, but really for the most part, it's a lot of the same ol' stuff.

Heading into my second year of 1/2 day homeschooling has given me a bit of the jitters. I can tell myself that things went well last year and that Bella seemed to benefit from the personal attention and repetition, but this is a brand new year. 3rd grade feels different than 2nd grade. There are higher level concepts and more ideas to grasp. Am I ready for that? I looked ahead to what the lesson plan was for social studies and saw Bella would be learning about the Vikings this year. When I told her that, her response was classic, "That's easy, Mom. I already know about Brett Favre." Should be an interesting school year...

With Harry and Becca, I am in a bit of a panic about their new schools. I have to be honest. I was more than slightly nauseous when I charted out the days off in my planner from all three schools. Being in 3 different school districts this year is going to be complicated. I have kind of resigned myself to the fact that there will likely be a day that I will either bring someone to school when it's not in session or perhaps they might be late because it is a day that I thought they were off.

Facing the stress and the unknown circumstances of this upcoming school year has led me to rely heavily on a second quote. It has become a mantra of sorts for me. It is simply, "That which we manifest is before us." It comes from one of my favorite books that I have ever read, "The Art of Racing in the Rain." If you haven't read it, I highly recommend you check it out. It is written from a dog's point of view and it has so many touching moments. Anyway, I find the quote comforting when I feel like I am drowning in the chaos and uncertainty of what this coming school year holds. It's really no different from what I'm sure you've heard a million times before in different ways...the power of positive thinking, the Secret, and many others. Perhaps it touched me because it came from a dog or at least the author's idea of how a dog would think. It is simple, yet extremely powerful. Sure there will be difficult times this year, but I need to remember that if I expect the best, things will go much better. If you expect the worst, well you know how that goes...
Now regarding the Minnesota Vikings upcoming season, I suppose I should pick the second quote to focus on, rather than the first. Well, I guess Bella and I will cover that together this fall during homeschool...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In...

Okay, I'm going to be honest from the start here. I didn't exactly see three ships, it was only two and they weren't exactly sailing, because they were anchored, but they could have been. It isn't exactly the perfect title to this post, but it will have to do!

Last weekend we had a Rowe family outing. It was kind of a rarity to have all of us home at the same time and I like to capitalize on those days. We loaded up the car and headed to Hudson, Wisconsin where replicas of Christopher Columbus' famous ships, The Nina and the Pinta were docked for tours. I thought it would give the kids a hands on history lesson that would stick with them longer than reading a paragraph out of a book.

The ships weren't exactly to scale (one was slightly larger, one slightly smaller), but it did give you the idea of how hard the journeys must have been sailing the Atlantic back in the 15th century. The replicas were created in Brazil using exactly the same method that created the original ships. If any of you have seen the movie "1492" (which I haven't), the replicas we saw of the Nina and the Pinta were used in the filming of that show. The ships are like traveling museums and go all over to allow people to learn more about Columbus and his journeys. You can check out the website to find out more information of if the ships will be visiting your town. They are also looking for crew members. Harry was ready to sign up until we had to break it to him that he had to be 18 to make the voyage. You might see his unhappy face in the picture. Now you know why he is upset.

Right next to where the boats were anchored, there was a brunch river cruise boat that looked more sea worthy than the Nina and the Pinta. As a sidenote, there was a coffin on board each of the ships in case someone was not able to complete the journey. I have a feeling they got used quite a bit!

In addition to our visit to the ships, spending the day in Hudson was very enjoyable! I had never been there and the town was oozing with charm. It appeared that there were a lot of buildings that had their original structures. The only negative part of the day was the super high humidity and high temps.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Day is Done, Gone the Sun...

The end of this week definitely came with an exclamation point! Bella and I were a part of Twilight girl scout camp Monday-Thursday. It runs each day from 1:30pm-8pm and I have been volunteering as a unit lead for Bella's group for the last 3 years. The theme this year was "Cruise Around the World" with stops in LA, Hawaii, Cabo San Lucas, and Anchorage. The weather played its part well for the camp as it was about 90 degrees and high humidity each day, but cooled down to around 80 degrees for our last stop in Alaska. Fitting...

Our unit this year was nicknamed, Octopus. They were a great group of girls! I was the only unit lead (adult leader), but I had 4 very helpful caddies (Cadettes and senior girl scouts) to help me out. Our group had 12 girls all going into 3rd grade. It was nice for Bella to see some diversity in our troop this year. One little girl had hearing aids and another girl had two braces on her legs to prevent toe walking. I know that Bella often feels like she is the only one that is different and has extra equipment, so it is nice when she encounters other kids with some level of differences too.

The week was filled with lots of learning. Each day has its own craft, sport/dance, snack, and special interest topic.

In LA, the girls learned about photography, played volleyball, made a beach bag and ate candy sushi.

In Hawaii, it was all about the Hula, volcanoes, Hawaiian pizza, and painting orchids.

In our stop to Cabo, we learned some self defense, drank smoothies, relaxed with yoga and made a memory book to house pictures from our week at camp.

Finally in Alaska we tried our hand at slingshots (the older campers used BB guns), cooked with a dutch oven, carved soap, and heard about gold prospectors.

Each day we also had plenty of time for dinner, swimming and learning girl scout camp songs. Bella brought the song book home with her and I have been lucky enough to continue hearing all of the songs. I'm not sure how to break it to her that after camp all the songs should be put away until next year to make them extra special, kind of like Xmas songs. Well at least that's what I'm going to say to her after my Advil supply runs out!

All the activities were very well thought out. Each year our Twilight camp wins a lot of awards for its creativity and I'm sure this year will be no different...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Well it's Over Now, Go on and Take a Bow...

With Harry off at church camp, I thought I would be free of the "will he, won't he" talk of Brett Favre's impending future/retirement from the Minnesota Vikings. How wrong I was. Rumors swirled everywhere today that he would be retiring for the 3rd time from the NFL. Brett must have really felt upstaged by LeBron James a few weeks ago and began to plot on how he could divert the media attention back to him. Most Minnesotans' feelings can be summed up today with one of two popular sayings. You are either in the the "Third times a charm" camp or the "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, I don't think so..." Okay so the second saying might not be exactly as you have heard it before, but it sure fits! That camp appears to be in the majority at this point.

Don't get me wrong, I have really enjoyed the Favre/Vikings era. It has come with heart pounding moments that make you clutch your chest in joy as well as sorrow. So the Vikings didn't go to the Superbowl which was a huge bummer, but without him they weren't really even playoff contenders. I guess that after watching the NFC championship game (that resembled the original Rocky movie more than a football game) my faith in Favre's abilities began to wane. I mean, he is 40 after all and the rest of the players are about 1/2 his age.

I really hope Harry has already heard the news up at camp. I don't want to be the one to tell him. I think he will take the news pretty hard.

Oh well, I guess we will wait for Favre's official announcement in the next few days... Then we can start counting the days until the buy week when he will come back in a media blaze of glory saving the Vikings from their 1-3 start and preparing to defeat his previous teammates on the Jets.

I guess we won't really know for awhile...