Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Drum-roll please....

IsaaIsaac's going to pre-school!

Earlier today, Jeremiah, Jessica, and I took Isaac to his Child Find eligibility and IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting.  We knew he would qualify for services, so the eligibility part was more of a formality.  I was nervous about the IEP part, not knowing what goals they would suggest or if we would have to fight a team that we would rather be working with than against. It turned out so well, better than I expected, and with fairly impressive efficiency based on the number of people in the room.  We learned that our local elementary school has an opening in the MWF morning preschool.  We had imagined getting Isaac into a Tuesday/Thursday class to help ease us into this new and exciting routine, but the preschool teacher made the great point that, if he has three days a week available to attend, he won't miss out on as much if he needs to be gone for an appointment.  It also gives more time for the therapists and special educators to get into the classroom.  The therapists that Isaac will have at school will focus on helping him access his education and his school experience.  They recognize that Isaac does not have a cognitive impairment, he just needs significant support to communicate his wants and needs, to express himself and what he knows, and to participate in all of the fun stuff that preschool has to offer. He will be in the general education classroom, with no modifications made to what he is expected to learn. I'm already a huge fan of the preschool teacher and the therapists, and the special education coordinators, seeing how well they communicated with one another in this meeting and how clearly they respect each other's professions and roles in the school. We were so grateful to hear that the plan includes a full-time paraprofessional for Isaac, which mean someone is dedicated to helping him, hand-over-hand, with activities in the classroom.  Either his nurse or I will be in the classroom for Isaac's medical needs, which was another fight I was expecting that turned into a non-issue.  I know parents in other states or just other school districts who have had to go through a few hoops to be able to attend school with their child for medical reasons, so I was relieved to hear that I was not expected to go through said hoops. (I would like to pause here to reminisce about a time that my friend Erin and I went to a town meeting when we worked as homeless prevention and outreach volunteers, and a rather notorious local figure asked us, in his best "I'm intimidating and you are but young 20-something girls" voice, if our clients at least had to jump through some hoops to get financial assistance with their rent.  Erin replied, "Well, they aren't circus animals, so no, they don't jump through hoops, but we do have a detailed intake process."  If she hadn't already been my hero, that was the moment she became one.) 
Back to preschool.  At some point in the meeting, toward the end, someone spoke up to say, while glancing between her calendar and her paperwork "So, let's see, Isaac turns 3 on February 11...That's a...Saturday...So...he will staaart... on February 13th."  Jeremiah and I looked at each other and at Jessica and at Isaac, like "Oh! Okay! Let's dive right in!"  It is what we wanted, but I had imagined some extra wait time for paperwork or whatnot.  So now, starting February 13, Isaac has preschool MWF mornings, Natalie has preschool MWF afternoons, and we will fit the rest of life (speech therapy, physical therapy, dance class, gymnastics class, swim lessons, doctor appointments, proceduces, and, um, WORK).  Suddenly life as a parent to a special needs child got busier, and I thank God that we are at this point.  Seriously, Isaac is starting preschool.  Let that sink in.  Go back and read our posts from the first month or two after his diagnosis, and then come back and read those words. 

In other news, his third birthday party is planned and it will be awesome.  There will be a magician.  And magic bunnies. And BBQ (pork, not bunnies). And Octonauts themed cookies. And Isaac!

We can't thank you all enough.  Without your support and prayers, I don't know where we would be, but I don't think it would be here.  


Sunday, January 1, 2017

A New Year! Make it Happy! And a million pictures!

I have spent some time this week trying to organize photos from the past year, which is always a pleasant walk down memory lane.  We had a really great year, overall, and I'm hoping for 2017 to be great as well.  The thing is, a year is a pretty long time, and any year is bound to have some good days and bad days, some easier weeks and harder weeks, some great weather and some horribly hot or cold weather, some illness, some fun, some family, some death, some life.  A life in pictures will most likely illustrate the better days and the best moments, the stuff of photo books and calendars and online albums for the world to see.  The rest of the moments are either dull or hectic or exhausting or sad and we wouldn't even consider taking a picture.  I wouldn't add a photo of Natalie crying because she missed us when we were gone all day at Isaac's appointment. No, I post the picture of Isaac napping in the car on our way home. I don't want to flip to February on my (as yet) unfinished calendar and be greeted by a picture of me angrily throwing bowls around the kitchen because I am so stressed out about finances and family that a failed cheesecake makes me cry.  Instead, I post the picture of the kids licking off the beaters after helping me make said cheesecake.  I don't snap a selfie of Isaac and me after his breathing treatment as I suction him and clean his mouth. I ask Natalie to smile as she colors at the table or pretends to be Supergirl.  We smile, genuinely, for a family Christmas picture, grateful that, once again, we are all together.  Behind every perfect or adorable photo you see on social media is a whole reality, a real person, and a whole lot of life goes on behind that camera.

I recently read this fantastic post on the blog Unstoppable, written by Jon Morrow, a young man (younger than me, at least), a millionaire, with muscular dystrophy.  He lays out for the reader some of his most unpleasant memories, and how he chose to survive and eventually benefit from the hard stuff.  I recommend it with a disclaimer for some language and the recognition that he writes from his own experience, not that of a psychologist or a social worker or a doctor.  A few of my favorite quotes are:

"At some point or another, life punches everyone in the face.
The punch may be hard, or it may be soft, but it’s definitely coming, and your success or failure is largely determined by the answer to a single question: how well can you take the punch?"
"A lot of people view acceptance as weakness. They think that, if they accept what’s happened to them, they’ll be admitting defeat. But it’s the opposite. It’s only by acknowledging reality that you can create a plan to change that reality. Acceptance, as it turns out, is the first step to victory."
"We’ve all heard the cliché about turning lemons into lemonade, but to do that, you can’t be pissed off at the lemons, go into denial about the existence of the lemons, or get depressed because you’re tired of making lemonade. You just have to grab a lemon and squeeze the s*** out of the motherf****r."
What am I getting at here? I guess I just want to encourage you.  I keep hearing about how 2016 was a bad year, a terrible year, and good riddance.  I hear mixed reviews on 2017, either no hope for it, or a desperate hope.  It's as though the year itself, the marking of the passage of time, is to blame for the bad, to laud for the good.  Let me tell you, the year is not the decision maker.  Before putting the kids to bed tonight, I asked them to tell me what they want to do this year.  Natalie had to think about it, but she finally decided she wants to read some special books. Isaac liked the idea of visiting a new aquarium. Jeremiah wants to lose weight and work on his car and house projects, maybe race his bike again.  I want to take a family trip back home to Illinois and start family game nights.  These are not deep thoughts or impossible tasks, but I guarantee that something will get in the way of most of our goals for the new year.  So what is to be done? How do we hold fast to our resolutions and remain free from discouragement?  The answer is in not ignoring the hard stuff.  My camera will be filled with happy snapshots to enjoy and to share with others.  I want to remember those moments. And while I don't wish to remember the details of the dull, hectic, stressful, or sad times, I should probably try to remember what I learn from them, This year, I resolve to take a few minutes, a few nights a week, to examine my conscience.  What actions did I take or fail to take, what words did I say or fail to say?  Can I offer up the hard stuff for the good of someone else? What should I do or say differently, to be a better Christian, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, neighbor?  Each day is made up a million moments, hundreds of little choices.  My hope for 2017 is to be more charitable and loving in those choices.  Who knows? Because of one better, kinder, more loving choice that I make, maybe someone else's 2017.  That would be nice.
And now, for a year in review! In pictures! It's better if you ignore the formatting all together and focus on how cute Natalie and Isaac are.  
A family photo, taken just after New Year's 2016

Natalie, eating dinner in just her cape, while Isaac plays with penguins.  This was not entirely atypical...

Jeremiah and Isaac, chilling on the couch

Changing a car battery, in February, in shorts.

Isaac's 2nd Birthday!

All dolled up for family pictures

Jeremiah and Isaac, snuggling and playing


Grandma and Grandpa Boostrom!

Again, Jeremiah and Isaac, snuggling, with Natalie 

Easter with my cousins, more Boostroms!

Painting canvases!

The zoo!

After Natalie's ballet recital


My sister and I went to see Paul Simon!

Cookie dough!


More Daddy time

Craft time at the YMCA with the Boostrom clan

Trying to get a good angle for a family picture... 

Watching Le Tour de France

At the splash park on Natalie's birthday

A horse happened by our house...
Sister assisted coloring

Sword fight!

Meeting a kitten on his half birthday

Trying the giraffe mask...

I have NO pictures from September, and I don't think it's because I was too busy with crappy stuff...
Our little beauties- more family photos

Captain Barnacle and a Ninja!

Camping!  Or, at least, hanging out in a tent!

November and December
I am fighting a losing formatting battle, so these months go together.

Before his first treatment
Natalie was too sick to attend her preschool Christmas program,
so she gave us a private showing :)
Breakfast with Santa
Christmas Eve
Natalie and I after Christmas Eve Mass
Breakfast with Santa

The Nutcracker! It's really him!
Jeremiah and Isaac after Christmas Eve Mass