Friday, April 04, 2014

Spring Break 2014

Here is an overview of our spring break via my phone pictures.

We sold our house!!!!

We took an awesome 2 day mini vacation to Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort with the DeCooks. We had so much fun with the kids and laughed so hard the whole time.


Then just the big boys and I went to Des Moines for the night. We went to find restaurants, the boys played with friends, and we went to Skyzone. It was a super quick, but fun trip to end our spring break. :-)

In addition to the fun that we had, Jamie and I actually got some work done for our photography business too!


It was a great week and a half break. It always goes by way too quickly.

Phi Phi is TWO!

(a belated birthday post for Sophia...I've had this drafted for almost a week and just got around to finishing it!)

Phi Phi turned 2 last week!  I can't believe it!
It seems like just yesterday that I walked into that delivery room and got to see her sweet face only moments old.  It seems like yesterday that I got to hold that sweet baby for the first time!
I love her and her sisters so much and love the amazing bond they have with my boys.  What a special relationship we have with the DeCook family...and how God orchestrated everything with our children being so close in age and them being such amazing friends and genuinely loving each other so much.  Tate and Wesley still don't "get" that they aren't their cousins!  lol

Lora, Sophia and I got to spend some time together just before Sophia's birthday doing her 2 year pictures.

Seriously...you don't get much cuter than this!




And I know I say it all the time, but this is my blog and my personal journal and outlet where I can say anything that is on my mind so I will say it again...I am so blessed to have Lora in my life.

I love that Lora and I are doing this thing called motherhood together.  It's so nice to be able to learn and grow as mothers together.  I need her and what we have is beyond friendship and it is so precious to me.  And her girls...I love them each so much that it hurts.  God brought our family together with the DeCooks at the perfect time in our lives.  We just "work".  Sean and James' friendship, the kids friendship, Lora and my friendship...it just works.  We have built so many incredible memories with this family...through our many evenings and weekends spent together, our trips away without kids, our family vacations, being there for each other in the hard times and the happy, big times in our lives, picking each other up when we are down, laughing harder than we've ever laughed in our lives together.  What a blessing to call these amazing people more than just friends...they are family to us.  And we look forward to the many more special vacations we will take, memories we will make and times we will spend together!




Phi Phi was not super excited about getting sung to.


It may have been a bit too much for her to take! lol.  I remember Tate doing this at his FOURTH birthday!  Ha!



 Aside from the fact that she obviously hated our singing, she was happy as can be!



We love you so much, Sweet Girl!
Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

I haven't started packing...

I am sad.  I really don't want to leave this house.  And the thing is...I LOVE our new home.  I am excited for what's to come.  I really am.  I let myself fall in love with this home though.  I had never done that before.  I have always lived in places that I knew were temporary.  This was the one home that I knew we would be raising our family in...the home that we would love and make our own over the years.  Ugh.  It's just a house...I know.  I just can't shake that icky feeling.  And honestly, our new home has a little bit less square footage than our current home and a smaller yard.  Because of those things, I honestly don't know if it is the home that we will be in for years to come.  It might be, but we know that in 5 years or so, we may want to get a larger place.  I hate the thought of moving into a home that might not be where we are for the long haul.  It's the reality for us right now though.  Sean is in school, my photography businesses are still growing and we didn't want to be house poor, so we purchased a home that we knew we would be able to afford comfortably right now.  Unfortunately, homes in the area we wanted to be in (for the schools and such) are just more pricey, so what we could afford comfortably wasn't going to provide us with as much square footage and yard space.  Once Sean completes school and starts his new career as a Nurse Practitioner and my photography businesses continue to grow, we may end up making ONE MORE move.  Although, the house isn't small...it's just that we've been spoiled with LOTS of square footage in our current home...so maybe this will be our forever house.  We've learned over the last few years...and continue to learn...that things never seem to go as planned.  Well, I believe they do go according to His master plan, but that plan is often not in line with my own plans!  Ha.

All of that to say that I haven't started packing...at all.  I probably should start working on that.  We are moving closing 2 weeks from Thursday.  I think I will cry when I walk out of this house for the last time. :(

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

We bought a house....again!

Two years ago YESTERDAY, our offer was accepted to purchase our current home.  We believed we would raise our boys here.  We loved our new home and couldn't wait to live here for many many years to come.  Boy how things change!  We had some problems with the the school district here and decided that for our family and our boys' specific needs, we needed to get into a different district.  We researched neighboring districts and spoke extensively with each of them and picked Pleasant View District as where we wanted to move.  Things moved quickly after that!  We looked at several homes and fell in love with one and put an offer in contingent on the sale of our house.  It was accepted and we listed our current home within 2 days and had 2 offers on it within 2 weeks.  We accepted an offer and scheduled closing for 30 days!  EEK!

It's been a whirlwind!  We are excited and sad and overwhelmed.  We so love our home here in Davenport and will miss a lot of things about it, but are super excited about our new home as well.  We are moving into a neighborhood that is amazing and into the exact school district within PV Schools we hoped to find a home within.  We are sacrificing some square footage in our new home, but that was to be expected as our current bedroom situation is beyond excessive.  Each of our boys has a gigantic bedroom space that we knew we wouldn't be able to find in a new home.  We are also sacrificing a bit of yard space...our current home is on a double lot and though our new home as good yard space, it is much smaller than our home here in Davenport.  All things considered, we are feeling so grateful that we got into the location that we did and that we will FINALLY have an attached garage.  Ha.  It's the little things, people! :D  We look forward to being in this amazing neighborhood and only a couple of blocks from our boys' elementary school where their cousins also go to school!  We have visited the school more than once and know without a doubt that for our family, this school is going to be incredible.  Cason will be attending preschool at a separate elementary school in the district which we just can't say enough about.  The difference in the preschool he will attend compared to where he would have attended here in Davenport is like night and day.  It is just such a relief to us that he will be in such a great environment!

So the next few weeks will be nuts.  We are moving into our new home on Good Friday...the 18th of April!  We are thrilled that aside from some paint and minor cosmetic changes to make it our own, the house is move in ready.  We are anxious to get the move over with and get settled into our new home!


Sunday, March 02, 2014

Yikes...it's been a month!

And a crazy month!  We have listed our house, bought a house (contingent on the sale of ours) and spent time with Wes in the hospital and then spent time at home with him while he continued to be sick for what seemed like forever.   I need to post more details of everything soon, but have a list of things I need to do for now!  More later...

Sunday, February 02, 2014

365 Days of Thankful - Hot Tubs in the Snow


Thankful for friends with hot tubs! :)  I needed something to relax me and it was even better to sit in there with the cold weather outside!  Tate loved it and so did I!  A much needed treat today...thanks Jeannie!!!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Cason's Education

It's strange...you take your child to a doctor you don't like, you change doctors...no questions asked.  Your decisions as your child's parent and advocate are respected and appreciated.  However, when it comes to that child's education, you express your concern with the room where they will be spending 6 hours a day, 5 days a week and you're stuck.  Take it or leave it.  You're told that the district knows what the best placement for your child is...the "district"...the people who some have never met your child and others have met him briefly.  It's absurd.

This is the experience we're having with Cason.  Cason has been dealt such a crappy hand.  He was born to a mother who had such a troubled past that she didn't have to tools to care for him appropriately and keep him safe.  I don't believe that she is a bad person, I don't believe that she sought out harm to Cason, she just was ALSO dealt a really crappy hand in life.  They were homeless at times, they jumped from home to home and then he was hurt...hurt in a way that in an INSTANT changed everything about his life forever.  He almost died...it was thought that was going to be the likely outcome, but he didn't.  He fought and lived.  He was removed from everything he knew...good or bad, it was what he knew.  He was in the hospital and then moved in with a family he had never met, forced to endure hours upon hours of therapy.  He was an innocent child who didn't bring any of this on himself.  He suffered for so long.  He was then moved again, to our home where he continued to endure hours upon hours of therapy and doctor appointments each week, he was forced to wear a helmet 23 hours a day that was sweaty and compressed his skull to help reshape his head.  He had to sleep in the helmet, it was uncomfortable for him.  We vowed that we would spend the rest of our lives doing anything and everything we could to make things in his life as good as we could for him...so he could grow and progress to his maximum potential.  He deserves nothing less.  Period.

Throughout the first year when Cason was with us, we changed several of his doctors and therapists to better suit Cason's needs.  There were never any questions asked...these medical professionals who had years of training and experience, many of who contributed to saving Cason's life RESPECTED OUR OPINION AND WISHES as his parents.  They never made us feel like they knew better than us what he needed.  We educated ourselves and made decisions according to all of the facts, what we knew as his parents and all of the research we did.  We don't take lightly his medical care and therapy he receives...we don't take any care he receives from others lightly.  We are very particular about his environment and that his needs are being met in the healthiest way possible to help him progress in all areas.  It is our job as his parents and his advocates and we want nothing other than the best for him.

So we feel the exact same way about his education.  We know Cason better than anyone else, we know what triggers his sensory issues, we know what environments are comfortable to him and what environments will set him off.  We know that if he is distracted or uncomfortable, there is no way he can learn and grow to his maximum potential.  So the classroom environment was very important to us.  We had specific types of instruction that we wanted him to receive every day and we were invited to do a tour and visit the classrooms at Children's Village West where he would be attending preschool.  To turn over care of him when I've had him by my side all day every day since the day he came to live with us was going to be extremely difficult.  Not only was I personally going to have to adjust and let go a little, but in order to do so willingly, Sean and I wanted to make sure that we were comfortable with the place where he would be going, where he would be spending his days.

Our visit revealed a lot to us.  It was clear where he was comfortable, where he let us put him down and he explored.  It was so obvious where he was uncomfortable and distracted, where he was nervous.  It was also an obvious decision as to where WE were comfortable, the environment that we knew we would not be afraid to put him in each day, the environment that provided a very healthy learning environment for Cason's individualized needs.  We took several factors into consideration...the factors that would affect Cason's sensory issues, the size of the classroom, the other children in the classroom, the environment where Cason would be receiving his one on one instruction and Cason's demeanor in each room.  We wanted to be educated on what was out there and as it was always stressed in his IEP meetings, we are an equal part of the team so we felt it was important to be fully informed not only for our peace of mind, but in order to help make the best decisions on Cason's behalf as a PART OF THE TEAM.

After that visit, we left the school feeling pretty good.  We spoke with the principal that it seemed clear to all of us that Cason would fit best in a certain room.  The principal stated that she could tell as well and we left looking forward to Cason starting school...for the first time ever.  We had been nervous for months about it prior to this.

At Cason's eligibility meeting it was again stressed how we are an important part of the team.  We were joined by many therapists and Cason's teacher, each who had worked with Cason weekly for the last couple of years.  Each of these people being in the room brought me comfort...they KNOW Cason, we know them, trust them and know that they only want what's best for Cason...that he isn't just a number to them.  There were a few people in the room from the district whom we did not know as well as the principal, nurse and a special education teacher.  The meeting was formal and uncomfortable.  It felt almost like a courtroom setting...so strange.  Everyone had their faces buried in paperwork that detailed Cason's history.  One of Cason's teachers, when his vision was brought up just casually said something about how the only accommodations necessary in regard to his vision would be that he has adequate lighting.  Well obviously...wouldn't that be the case for all classrooms to have adequate lighting?  I didn't really think much of it.  Apparently the district took that statement by the horns and went running.

Following the meeting, every person who has worked with Cason and KNOWS Cason was excused from the room so that the others could "make a decision for classroom placement".  We were not a part of the team in THAT decision.  Rather, the principal asked if she could take us to another room that she didn't originally invite us to visit previously because she felt like it was brighter.  We agreed to visit the room with her and the minute we walked in, we knew this was not a great environment for Cason.  The room is in the basement part of the school and is very large with not a single window and TONS of fluorescent lighting.  That lighting is not good for Cason with his sensory issues...a softer, natural light needs to be present.  In an environment like that, Cason's self stimulation behaviors are enhanced and he will bang his head, spin around, fling his head back and forth, hit himself, etc..     Furthermore, the so called "classroom" where Cason would be receiving his intensive one on one instruction was in the stairway...with a major echo.  Cason HATES echoes.  He can't be in a hotel swimming pool area because of the echo, he cries, his senses go crazy and he certainly isn't able to focus.  We were confused as to why the principal felt this classroom would meet Cason's needs.  We explained that the light in that room was not good for him and we still knew that the other classroom was the best fit for him.  Her response, "okay, well we'll just get some more lamps in there then!"   Again, we left feeling like we were all on the same page and excited for Cason to start preschool.

An hour or so later, after the ever so private placement meeting was complete, the principal called me to tell me that despite our concerns, the district knows that the basement classroom was the best fit for Cason.  I expressed that this was not going to work for him, that WE know Cason best and only are looking out for him, that we aren't trying to cause a problem, but we did not want him in that classroom.  She kept bringing up the light and how it's brighter in there.  I asked if she would like me to have Cason's teacher for the visually impaired contact her to discuss this matter as I knew he agreed with US on this topic.  She agreed and said she would get back to me after talking with him.

10 days passed and she never contacted me.  Meanwhile, Cason's 3rd birthday had come and gone and Cason was not receiving his services that he typically received weekly and he hadn't started school.  We waited long enough...I called the principal and was given her voicemail.  I asked when he would be starting, asked her to call me and discussed how we wanted to get the ball rolling to get him in school.  I mentioned again our concerns with the basement classroom and went over why the environment in the other classroom was a very healthy one for Cason with his individual needs.  Another week and a half went by after that with no return call.  Finally, one of Cason's therapists mentioned to someone on the team that I had heard nothing and was getting frustrated.  I then received a call, NOT from the principal, but an AEA staff person...19 days AFTER the eligibility meeting and 2 weeks after Cason had turned 3 to tell us that the district did not change their mind and Cason would be placed in the basement classroom.  I said that this would be a deal breaker and that we would not put him in that classroom.  I asked again why they selected that classroom and I was told again, it was because of the lighting.  I mentioned yet again that this was one of the reasons we DID NOT want him placed in that class...that lighting would increase Cason's sensory behaviors.  Then I asked how much say I do have, I expressed my disappointment in the system and having been told that we were an equal part of the team, but they were not taking our concerns into consideration.  I was told that placement is the districts decision and we don't get to have a say in that...only a say in programming.  I was then told that they are not denying Cason an education because they have given him this placement, but that if we decide to not send him, that is our choice.  And I am hearing all of this from the AEA employee and still have never heard a word from ANYONE from the district.  This employee then suggested that we put him in this basement classroom right away and then we can meet in 2 weeks to go over our classroom placement concerns and see how things are going.  She apologized that the first time the district special education representative could attend the meeting would not be for 2 weeks.  We explained that there was no way we would be putting him in that classroom for a single day.  Period.

So as of now, Cason will not be going to school.  We are so disappointed in the Davenport School District's special education program.  We will not quit fighting this.  As Cason's parents and advocates and the people who know him BEST, we will make SURE he receives the educational environment that is best for him to help him grow and learn to his maximum potential.  We will accept nothing less for this child.  He deserves an education and with his individual needs, the environment he is placed in is imperative to his ability to focus and learn.  I believe that to the district, he is a number.  I believe that to the principal of Children's Village West, he is a number.  I have been disappointed with the professionalism and choices of Children's Village West's principal since the day we met.  I will not keep my concerns quiet when it comes to the well being of my children and children that follow them.  Unfortunately, due to the boys' needs, the only schools they are able to attend that can accommodate their needs are schools that this principal oversees.  We have made it clear that if there were another option for us, we would be there.  Unfortunately, there is not.  I will fight for my boys until they get what they deserve!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

365 Days of Thankful - Bath Night


I love bath night.  I don't always do all of the boys' baths on the same night for timing reasons, but sometimes I do.  Tonight was one of those nights.  The boys smelled so good and willingly snuggled in together for a picture.  Boy am I one blessed mama!