Craving Dole Whip

Disney & museum obsessed, homeschooling mom of 3, parenting to focus on experiences, not possessions. Sharing Disney tips, educational adventures and 'been-there-done-that' reviews. Constantly craving Dole Whip.


Leave a comment

44 years and 1 day

Yesterday, I turned 44 years and one day old.  I wrote a blog post (read it here!) all about my birthday and what my actual day looked liked, but I woke up this morning with more to share.  So, what did 44 years and 1 day bring?

On Thursday, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. as a 44 year and 1 day old woman.  Constantly, for the last 24 years and 21 days, at least one person calls me “mom”, meaning I happily put my desires on the back burner…a deliberate, daily action for more than half my life.

So, I’m up at 6:30 a.m. to begin my day because Tuesdays and Thursdays are college days.  Not for me…I graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in 1997.  Tu/Th means college classes for my 11 and 13-year-old daughters.  Read 5 reasons why we homeschool here.

In true modern-life fashion, the first thing I reach for in the morning is my phone.  About 3 months ago, I finally started to flip my ringer off at night.  Since my son left for college in 2011, I worry about him constantly and always keep the phone on my nightstand, ringer on full-blast.  Now that the ringer is off at night, I check the phone first thing, just incase.  Full disclosure:  He graduated from college in 2015 and I still have my phone on vibrate (just incase).  Baby steps, people.  Baby steps.

I typically spend 10 ish minutes looking through Facebook, maybe Twitter, and seldomly Instagram.  Come on, I am 44.  Facebook is my jam.

A friend sent me a Facebook message asking about the mesh laundry baskets we use to protect, raise and house our monarch caterpillars.  I wanted to verbally describe the containers, but felt a picture would be better.  In my pj’s and clunky old-lady Vionic house-shoes (plantar fasciitis, remember?), I went to the garage to grab an empty habitat for an outdoor photo shoot.  I took the pic, put the basket back into the garage and stepped down onto the drive way.

20170427_070954

Well…I sort of “stepped down”.  The clunky house-shoe on my right foot slipped off as I stepped down from the garage doorway.  I twisted my ankle and fell directly on my rear, jarring my spine from my tailbone to my skull on the not-so-shock-absorbent concrete.  Of course, I used my left hand to brace myself, which in reality, only added to the list of injuries.  I laid on the driveway for a few minutes, accessing all damage, and laughing/crying at my old lady self…so thankful we live in the country, where neighbors are few and far between.

Besides my pride and ego, the other injuries are minor, mostly bruising and sore muscles.

Gingerly, I returned to the house, made oatmeal and negotiated two peace treaties between the conflicting ideals of my two daughters–at least I was not naked this time.  It’s a miracle.

On April 21, my family made the excruciating decision to help our beloved 13 year-old family dog cross the rainbow bridge.  A cloud of sadness and emptiness lingers over our house and hearts these days.  It has been tough on everyone.  For me, added misery stems from her absence in my daily routines.

Having a dog is like having another child.  Her needs always came before my own.  If she needed to go out and I needed to pee, I always took her first.  In fact, most mornings, I walked her outside before I barely opened my eyes and I always served her breakfast before I fed my children or myself.

As I was getting dressed, her absence overwhelmed me and I cried.  Cried in the shower, cried brushing my teeth, cried until it was time to leave for school.  I miss her.

FB_IMG_1492676666302

Part of my daily routine is calling my husband while I drive to the first college campus.  (My girls take classes at two different campuses this semester.) (And, since you might not know me personally, I use my car’s Bluetooth just to be safe.  I never speed and I never text while driving.)  I am a rule follower.

The phone call is a quick opportunity to check in with my man while my daughters are plugged in and watching a DVD in the car.  Movies create a much-needed quick escape for my girls from their very active brains.  What do they watch?  Well…let me just say, my daughters display an eclectic taste when it comes to films.  I am going to walk out to my car (slowly and carefully) and take a pic of the movies just for your viewing pleasure.  Here you go:

20170428_130934

 

20170428_131846.jpg

20170428_132155.jpg

Yes, all of these movies are currently in my car and yes, we spend a lot of money on DVD’s.  Someone should set up a GoFundMe account.

So, back to the chitty-chat with my husband.  He always asks about my morning first–even if I protest and ask about his day, he refuses to answer until I share my stuff.  I gave an overview of everyone’s morning emotions and a recap of my graceful, old lady fall and waited for his summation.

He starts by causally mentioning his name made the Colonel promotion list–a SUPER big deal.  We have waited AND waited AND waited for this amazing news.  As I am giddy with excitement and congratulations, I bounce in my driver’s seat (as much as humanly possible) and proceed to twerk my neck and back even more than the morning’s tumble on the concrete.  Damn this 44 year and 1 day old body.

Seriously, my husband is so humble.  Green Berets are called “The Quiet Professionals” for a reason.  He is a rock star, but he keeps it a secret.

greenarmyman

LOL.  I am just kidding.  That is not my husband.  This is a picture of my daughter at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  I wanted to throw a little Disney love into this post.  Who needs more Disney in their life?  This girl.  Yes, me.  Duh.

THIS is my man, leaving for deployment in 2010.

armydeployment

He is an amazing soldier and an amazing husband.

If I made the rank of Colonel, it would be the first thing I blurted out when I answered a call.  But, not my husband…he is always more concerned and interested in what I have going on in my world.  I am a lucky gal.

First college stop every Tuesday and Thursday is yoga class for my 11 year-old.  I am happy to report it is not an easy, blow-off course.  Though the focus is yoga and health, the professor spends a lot of time lecturing about yoga philosophy, morals, ethics, and practices.  My daughter continues to learn about Hindi culture, vegetarianism and historical traditions.

During yoga, my 13 year-old and I sit at tables outside of the classroom–she works on geometry, French or marine biology while I answer emails, make calls or write blog posts for you guys.  After yoga, my daughter changes into regular clothing and we drive to the next campus.

Yesterday, however, she realized she forgot her regular bra and reacted with a full, emotional meltdown in the women’s restroom.  Have you read about my life with profoundly gifted kids?  Click here.

I calmly suggested the sports bra was sufficient, but she shot that down pretty quick.  Next, I offered a switch–she could wear my bra and I would gladly wear the sports bra…anything to minimize her anxiety.  Apparently, the thought of wearing her mom’s bra was mortifying enough to make the wearing of the sports bra acceptable.  That is a parenting win, my friends.

We drove to the next college campus, where my 13 year-old takes Acting I and my 11 year-old attends two different ASL classes.  I create a home base–what I call our “nest”–and I sit there for the next 9 hours while my daughters come and go to the rest of their classes.  I read, watch entirely too many Netflix shows and I do research for this blog.  Yea Wi-Fi.

On campus, the Deaf and ASL interpreting college students were interacting with visiting Deaf junior high students.  One of the professors introduced my daughter and the students asked a lot of questions.  She confidently signed and communicated with several of the kids, which was exciting because these students were her age.  That NEVER happens.

One fascinating facet of Deaf culture is sign names.  A Deaf person MUST give the sign name to a hearing person.  Until a sign name is given, names are finger-spelled using the ASL alphabet.  My daughter has studied American Sign Language for 6 years and has waited 6 years, hoping someday to receive her sign name from a Deaf individual.

The sign name is an act of acceptance into the Deaf culture.

I was writing a blog post when my daughter RAN up to our nest, all out of breath, and almost cried as she told me that a Deaf student bestowed her a sign name.  It was the best day of her life!

Through happy tears, I watched my daughter walk into her Visual and Gestural Communications class with a sign name.  It was like she was a new person.

For Christmas, I gave my daughters tickets to see Alton Brown Live:  Eat Your Science.  When I purchased the tickets, we thought my husband would be in Qatar, so I only bought three.  Life is funny sometimes, right?  Plans change constantly around here.

So, we skipped my 11 year-old’s last class (Yes, she told the professor in advance.) and we met my husband for dinner before the show.  My husband loves Alton Brown and since he is not in Qatar, I gave him the chance to take our daughters on a date.  I REALLY wanted to go, but I was thrilled to give up my ticket for my awesome husband.

20170428_150436

20170427_154216.jpg

 

Alton Brown is so cool, isn’t he?

After dinner, my husband took our daughters to see Alton Brown Live and I started the long drive home.  I made a last minute decision to visit my fabulous sister because Google Maps sent me right by her house.

I love spending quality time with my sister, my nephew and one of my nieces.  (The other one was out for the evening…bummer!)

They gave me some super awesome birthday presents, like this Haunted Mansion (my all-time favorite Disney ride!!!) plate.

20170428_150521-e1493411010628.jpg

And, I got this adorable dress to wear during my next Walt Disney World vacation!

20170428_150702

I am sooooooo excited!!!

Last May, I was diagnosed with skin cancer.  Ugh.  Too many years using baby oil in the sun and too many trips to the tanning bed in my teens and 20’s…use sunscreen my friends.

Anyway, I had some fun basal cell carcinoma removed from my shoulder and the scar is YUCK-Y.  I call it “my third nipple”, which my husband hates, but I think it’s funny–it is a sick way of coping…

My 4 year old nephew (He is the love of my life!) told me to take off my jacket, revealing my shoulder because I was wearing a tank top underneath.  He immediately started asking questions about my scar and poking it with his finger.  He said it looked like gum and I could not stop laughing.

20170428_150929

I guess calling it “gum” is better than “my third nipple”.  lol.

This is my nephew.  I could look at his precious face all day long.

20170415_110043_1492272553468

It was dark by the time I arrived home and I immediately felt the absence of our Pepper Dog.  Last night marked the first time I was home alone without her.  The house was too quiet and too empty.  I could not stop thinking about her.

20170415_123054

I decided a melatonin made the best nighttime snack and I snuggled into bed, watching a few episodes of “Scrubs”.

At 11:30 p.m., my husband (a new Colonel) and daughters (one with a sign name) finally came through the door, exhausted from a long day of school and Alton Brown.

I feel asleep with sore muscles and tight joints from the morning’s fall, but I have this chunk of gum on my shoulder and it kind of makes me laugh.

Here’s to being 44 years and 1 day old.

Advertisements


2 Comments

5 BIG Surprises About My Life With Profoundly Gifted Children

freddy6

5 THINGS THAT MIGHT SURPRISE YOU ABOUT MY LIFE WITH EXTRAORDINARY CHILDREN:

1.  We cry A LOT in this house.

A few years ago, the wind swirled the air like a crazy late September hurricane.  In the car-rider line at school, I opened the door to let my daughter out and her science review sheet flew into the oncoming traffic.  I tried to catch the flying paper, but the wind won…and it was quickly out of eyesight.  She knew the material–we studied every night for at least a week.  But, my oldest daughter possesses a strong attachment to THINGS.  To most EVERY thing.  She cares DEEPLY and she cries INTENSELY.  She cries for the homeless.  She cries for orphans.  She cries for shelter animals.  She cries when people cheat.  She cries when something breaks.  And yes…she cries for review sheets…for 25 minutes…sobbing…in the school parking lot…completely devastated.

We cry a lot.

My youngest daughter, LOVES Elvis Presley and of course, she understands that he died years ago.  However, after watching a 4 hour documentary that ended with footage of his casket, my daughter was inconsolable.  Hyperventilating.  Crying out in pure pain and sorrow.  That session lasted a few hours.

Did I mention we cry a lot in this house?

I can think of at least 213 overly emotional stories.  The day my husband sold his car.  The day my oldest daughter learned she was too young to get married.  The time she sobbed because she didn’t know about the permits needed to build an orphanage.  A dead butterfly on the driveway…

Moments like this happen every day.  Several times a day.

I cry, too.  My children require a SUPER MOM…there is NO down time and I worry about my inability to meet their unique needs.  I am ordinary.  I am tired.

This extreme parenting is sometimes just too overwhelming.

Please understand…our house is NOT a sad house.  My girls are just intense.  Emotionally intense.  They FEEL things and experience life on a plane of intensity unfamiliar to my ordinary emotions.  It’s just the way it is.

2.  We still nap.

A big shocker to most outsiders is that my 11 year old desperately needs a daily nap and my life semi-revolves around that schedule as if she was still 3 months old.  That child barely sleeps at night.  Her mind races and spins and dances and wreaks havoc all over this family.  A mid-day nap is an essential part of her survival and ability to function.  On the weekends and during summer vacation, BOTH girls take naps.  Active brains need rest.

3.  We are on a time limit.

With all her 5 senses, my youngest absorbs and filters up to 200% more information than the average person.  I assume my other daughter falls somewhere on that spectrum as well.  That’s a lot of stimuli.  If we are in a visually stimulating, academically engaging environment, time is ALWAYS ticking.  They can only take in so much before the migraines begin.  One daughter gets overwhelmed.  The other gets grouchy.  AND, they shut down.  Time to go home!

A challenging environment with crowds, loud noises, weird smells, or extreme temperatures causes severe anxiety.   I try to stay ahead of the meltdowns and some days, I successfully read the signals.  Other days, I fall victim to the chaos and suffer the consequences right along with my daughters.

4.  We are lonely.

My girls do not receive many birthday party invites.  There are no playdates.  No sleepovers.  No phone calls from friends.  And yes, my daughters still play.

At this moment in time, my daughters PREFER to play with each other.  I think they feel more at ease and can be themselves without feeling odd or weird or different.

I am lonely, too.  There are very few people I can honestly talk to without sounding boastful.  Negative judgements, strong opinions and criticisms come next.  Everyone gets a fraction, a small segment of the truth.  And, my social calendar belongs to my children.  Their needs come first.

5.  School and academics are NOT always easy.

It is an assumption (an incorrect one) that gifted children need very little to be successful in school.  Though my 11-year-old has powered through four years of math in 6 months and is about to complete her second semester in college, she struggles to remember to capitalize the first letter of a sentence.

My 13-year-old won the school and homeschool spelling bee and reads on a post college level, but failed the district reading benchmark test back in the day because her concrete mind can not process inferences or assumptions.  She DOES NOT understand sarcasm, joking or teasing.  She is a black and white thinker.  Right or wrong.  When it comes to reading comprehension, if the answer is not stated in the reading passage, she is utterly LOST.

This brings me to the evil lurking behind a profoundly gifted label:  It is called Asynchronous Development.  And, I HATE it.

Asynchrony is the state of not being synchronized.  (Who came up with THAT definition?)

Essentially, it presents itself as uneven development in gifted kids.  Hence, the need to homeschool. We constantly remind ourselves (and others) that just because my daughters are advanced academically, it DOES NOT mean they are years ahead socially or emotionally…and certainly not physically.

Asynchrony is confusing and frustrating and challenging.  Both girls suffer and excel at the hands of their asynchronous development.  It makes traditional schooling and most learning situations very difficult.

So…

If given the opportunity, especially if presented on a particularly challenging day, I would probably change all of this…if I could. IF I could pick and choose WHICH aspects stayed and which ones disappeared, I would jump at the chance to lessen the burden for my daughters.  YES I WOULD–in a heartbeat!

BUT, the over excitabilities and asynchronous development are part of a package deal.  They all go hand-in-hand with the profoundly gifted diagnosis.  I don’t get to pick and choose…and neither do my girls.  It is part of who they are and my job is to teach them how to manage and cope with ALL aspects of their abilities.

We choose to embrace the positive AND the negative, for without one there is NO balance or appreciation for the other.

It IS what makes them extraordinary.

 

 mono1


8 Comments

The Top 5 Reasons Why We Chose To Homeschool

By now, I hope you have read my 3 flashback posts.  This is going to be super confusing if you skipped those!

Click here to read part 1.

Click here to read part 2.

Click here to read part 3.

With my son away at college and armed with the new information about my two daughters, I started on a quest to find the best academic fit for my girls.  I Googled and read and emailed and contacted and toured and applied and did so many things…

Nothing was the right fit.

Enter HOMESCHOOL!

I won’t bore you with all of my thoughts, but homeschooling became the obvious option for our family.

This new adventure began in the fall of 2012 for my youngest daughter and in the fall of 2013, my other daughter joined us at home, too.

Hundreds of reasons came clearly into view once we researched what homeschooling is all about and once we started on this homeschooling journey, a million more became evident.

Here are the 5 BIG reasons we love homeschooling our profoundly gifted daughters:

 

1. Freedom to do education our way

Probably one of the most popular reasons to homeschool is the freedom our country gives parents to educate their children in a way that fits each unique family.

Yes, homeschooling is illegal in some countries, like Germany, and each state in the United States has its own laws to govern home education.

For my family, this freedom allows my daughters to both be enrolled in college and still study spelling, history and writing at home.  We have the freedom to learn 4 years of math in 6 months…and yes, that happened.

There isn’t a public or private school out there that can meet the asynchronous academic needs of my daughters, hence the need to homeschool in the first place.

We can educated as quickly or as slowly as needed.

And, we always educate for mastery, not completion.

Yes, my daughters are in college.  They started taking classes when they were 10 and 12.

 

2. Freedom of expression

I get it. My kids are unusual. I have working eyeballs and mommy friends and an active Facebook account…I see the way kids dress and the activities they enjoy doing with their friends.

My 12 year old runs her own charity and wants to open an orphanage.  She is a 2nd degree black belt, a master speller and is a reading machine.  The 11 year old loves Johnny Cash, Elvis, bones, primitive tools, dissections, oddities, conjoined twins and sign language. She wants to be a gynecologist.

willow1

 

healthdis2

 

Not typical.

Got it.

My girls can be themselves without people constantly telling them how “weird” they appear…though it still happens once in awhile, the negativity does not consume them on a daily basis and I think it gives them each a chance to be comfortable in their originality and confident enough to withstand the occasional teasing.

3. Freedom to live anywhere

A year after we started our homeschooling journey, I realized we could live anywhere.  School district boundaries no longer decided where our home needed to be built.

We moved to 5.5 acres so our girls could run and play and dig and go on adventures and just be outside!

Nature tends to calm the anxiety and frustrations of our youngest daughter and it is a peaceful environment for all of us!

 

school1

willow2

 

4.  Freedom to explore interests

My oldest daughter loves marine biology.  My youngest daughter is passionate about American Sign Language.  Neither one of those subjects are taught in traditional public or private schools.

Homeschooling gives my girls the freedom to explore, study, research and enjoy whatever interests they choose to pursue–for as long as they wish.

It also gives me the freedom to pick and choose knowledgeable teachers to teach those different subjects.

 

5.  Freedom to travel and learn “in person”

Ok, let me just say this now–NO, we did not choose to homeschool because we can travel to Walt Disney World whenever we want (preferably when the crowd levels are low).

BUT, it is a delightful perk of homeschooling!  LOL!

Now that my daughters are both taking college classes, our travel options are not as open as they once were…however, my girls prefer to learn “in person”.

What does “in person” mean?

Hands on projects, experiencing academics–not just reading from a textbook.

We visit so many museums, experience so many cool adventures and focus on experiencing the learning process.  Just wait for those review posts to start popping up!

We never read about something in a textbook and take a test the next day.

My girls want to build and create and be active learners–and I love the challenge of discovering how to make that happen– homeschooling provides the option to do just that.

That is why I am obsessed with museums.  Click here to read a review of our favorite museum in Oklahoma!

 

So, now you know all about my little family.

I hope my honestly didn’t cause all of you to run for the hills.

 

 

 


4 Comments

Flashback Posting Part 3

A few days ago, I came to the conclusion that some people might not know the history behind my family.  I think history is important.– Especially once I start blogging about museums and education adventures…you guys are going to wonder why all of that is so important to my family.

And, I was struggling…feeling disconnected from my blog…

My husband suggested I write about it all.  So, I am.

I wrote 2 other flashback postings to get you all caught up.  You should read #1 here and #2 here.  It will help.

Then I realized…I should have started at the VERY beginning.

Because, naturally, the best place to start is the beginning.  The ordinary beginning.  (Wishing this part was a little more exciting…sorry!)

I hope all of this background info isn’t too snoozer.

Born and raised in Texas…I am the oldest of three girls, mom and dad are still married, and I will be 44 in April.   We traveled to Disneyland and Walt Disney World so many times that no one kept count!  (FUN!) 

cdw27

 

That’s me on the left, my sister on the right.

Pretty Ordinary.

I enjoyed public school in a small suburb of Houston and graduated in 1991.  Academic successes certainly did NOT fill my college applications.  I possessed leadership qualities, won a few art contests, led the dance drill team as the top officer.  Pretty ordinary stuff.

highschool1

NEVER been a math person.  Never really enjoyed reading…embarrassing to admit…I always picked up the Cliff Notes right before the book test.  I am super ordinary.

Study skills were a foreign concept until my senior year, when I joined a supportive study group and actually LEARNED how to study for a government test.  I greatly enjoyed the social aspects of high school and pushed the academic focus to the back burner, obviously.

Ready to start a new life and identity, I chose my college based on how far it was from home–without a campus visit or researching the majors offered.  I didn’t even know people visited colleges or that different degrees were attainable at different universities.

The first time I saw my college was the day I moved into my dorm.  Six days later, I met a guy and we started dating.  ORDINARY!  Two years after that, I was blessed with a surprise pregnancy and my son changed everything.

But, don’t assume anything…this is where MY real journey begins.

Four years later, I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, a focus in Studio Art and a K-12 all-level teaching certification and became an art teacher.

 

VERY short version of my ordinary life.  🙂

college

WAS an ordinary, single mom with a son and a career as an art teacher.

My son…well he lined up his Matchbox cars by color and body design and the collection would stretch from his room to my bedroom in our tiny apartment.  He taught himself to read at age 3 and could understand simple algebra in Kindergarten.  He carried spiral notebooks full of handwritten math problems and would spend hours solving equations.

freddy1

He knew the bones of the human body, loved space and science.  He loved, loved, loved animals.  He was sensitive, thoughtful and compassionate.  He cried EVERY TIME we drove by a dead animal on the side of the road and he cared deeply about people in distress.  He liked super soft things…shirts, socks, and his special pillow.  He wore his cowboy boots everywhere…even to the pool.  And he was very funny and very clever.  My son was not ordinary and I supported him.

littlelake

 

He was my only priority.

I supplemented higher level academics at home because he asked for it and met with teachers all through his school career because I was his mom.  That was MY job.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I certainly NEVER even considered grade acceleration or testing.  I didn’t know that existed.

I was young.  I never lost sleep.

I was never overwhelmed with worry about the public school not meeting his needs.  I never obsessed about bullies.  I didn’t stress about his future. I never researched or read a book or joined a support group–never considered it.  I was just HIS mom and he was my world.   I thought my son was interesting, smart and well-adjusted.  (And, he is!)

Looking back, I believe his social skills and physical looks made his journey drama-free and enjoyable.  His over excitabilities are mild.   He is the lucky one.  My daughters certainly struggle more.

The boy IS smart…but he is also handsome.  And he is VERY athletic…football and rugby and anything else he can try!  And handsome.  And very social.  And handsome.  (Did I mention handsome?)

If I told you that he started taking college courses at age 15 or that he scored a perfect 800 on the math portion of the SAT or that he collects vintage video gaming systems, would you picture this guy?

freddy7

 

 

Probably not!  LOL!

freddy2

 

My son will be 24 in April.  He graduated from high school with 48 college credit hours and a TON of academic successes filled his college applications…as well as his work experience, sports history and volunteer hours.

Four years later, he graduated from one of the top colleges in the nation.

freddy5

Well-rounded, adjusted, happy AND very intelligent.  He makes my heart happy.

 

freddy4

And, that precious, little boy prepared me for the next challenge in my journey.

Like I mentioned in my flashback posts (read #1 here) and (read #2 here), my first daughter was born when my son was 11 and my second daughter came along 18 months later.

So, if you want me to do the math for you (which is funny because I can’t do math), my son left for college just a few days before my youngest daughter started Kindergarten!  LOL!

It was a little nutty back then.

But, by the end of that school year, we finally learned that both of my daughters were profoundly gifted.  The kind of “gifted” that usually isn’t successful in public school gifted programs.

Disclaimer part:  Since some of my readers do not know me personally, I will just let all of you know that we believe ALL children have gifts.  “Gifted” is just the term used to describe people with extraordinary abilities.  I do not believe my children were “gifted” something extra because they are more special than other children.  I didn’t come up with the term “gifted”, so don’t shoot the messenger.

And, incase some of you are wondering, my son chose not to be professionally tested.

 

 

 

 

 


4 Comments

Flashback Posting Part 2

Hello there, my friends!  Happy Monday to all of you!

I am super sorry for leaving you hanging with my last blog entry.  If you didn’t read it, please go back and read it here first because this one probably won’t make sense if you start here.

journey16

 

On to my story…

I will admit, I assumed my youngest would have a challenging year in kindergarten.  I worried about her outbursts and her overwhelming fears and her crippling frustrations.  People on the outside assumed these behaviors are coming from a place of disrespect, poor parenting, a refusal to complete a task and total disobedience.  Heck, even I thought that at first.  So, like I said in the last post, I wrote a two page letter to the school, hoping to explain my baby to the outside world.

Thank goodness they read it.

Kindergarten was delightful for my daughter.  She made a few, select friends.  She LOVED her teacher and she even earned Citizen of the Month!  But, when I visited the classroom, I started to notice a few things.  The students’ work displayed on the wall all looked the same…except for my daughter’s work.

Her drawings, handwriting, worksheets, etc. looked like it had been completed by a third grader.  It was oddly noticeable…when I stood in the hall, looking at a display…out popped her work…and not just to MY mommy eyes because I’m all biased and fixated on my kid.

Everyone noticed.

It almost made me uncomfortable.  I paid attention to how the other children spoke, how they interacted with one another and how they played during center time.  There was a VERY obvious difference between the other kindergarten children and my daughter.

Our psychologist refused to diagnose her with any label before the end of that school year.  What a smart and insightful doctor…I am so thankful for her hesitation…

Because…my daughter’s kindergarten teacher saw something that I was too close to see.  (And she recommended my daughter for GT testing.)

Bogged down with concerns and worries, sleep deprivation and life-controlling melt downs, I saw nothing but the challenges…I was DROWNING in the challenges.  I owned a binder FULL of notes, medical reports and evaluations that focused on what was “wrong” with my baby.  My entire goal at this point in the journey was to find out WHY she was acting like an out-of-control banshee.  I knew once I had an answer, I could find a solution…a way to help her function and deal and adjust and live a happy life.

A particular moment in time burned a permanent memory into my mommy brain:  After one of her more severe break downs, I was rocking her back and forth in her bedroom.  She leaned out of my arms, looked right at me, and through her tears, asked in the most serious voice, “What is wrong with me?”  I can barely relive the thought without crying myself.  It broke my heart.  I immediately told her, “I don’t know.  But I promise that we will find out and I will help you get better.”

I meant it.

In the spring of 2012, paperwork from the elementary school came home explaining that the kindergarten teacher recommended my daughter for testing and her scores qualified for the Gifted and Talented program.

Ok.

Honesty moment:

My husband and I didn’t think much about it.  My brilliant son didn’t “qualify” for the program until the end of 5th grade so the testing process never really impressed me.  I put my daughter’s “acceptance letter” on my nightstand and barely thought about it.  Truth.

A few days later, my husband called from work asking about the scores.  Particularly, he wanted to know WHAT tests were administered.

I am about to tell you how an ordinary mom’s life changed.

Right here.

Get ready.

The letter was SO important to me (those are super sarcastic words, my friends) that I had to dig the paperwork out of a stack of other non-sense.  (EMBARRASSING to admit that!)

My husband and I sat in bed that night and Googled the name of the first test.  It was an IQ test.  We didn’t even know that.  My daughter’s score was well above the school’s admitting score.  Ok.  We didn’t even think much of that…

Until we Googled HER score.

We both sat there in disbelief.

When I typed in her IQ score, thousands of sites came up…and almost all of the information described our daughter.  Could this REALLY be what was causing all of my daughter’s challenges?!?

What????

I was a teacher in my previous life and I NEVER heard of this before!  I didn’t believe anything.

I was in complete denial.

So, what did I do?

I called the school and made an appointment with the GT specialist.

I honestly thought she would tell me the version of the IQ test given by the school wasn’t the same one I found on Google.  I thought she would tell me it was a mistake, or that she got the numbers mixed up.  I thought she would tell me it was no big deal.

But, she didn’t.

She told me kids like my daughter usually do not stay in public school and she handed me the contact information for a support group for families with profoundly gifted children.  She also suggested I find a professional psychologist to administer a different, full-scale IQ test.

In a daze, I got in my car…wondering what the hell just happened?!?!

Within a few weeks, I found myself in a different psychologist’s office. (Not our regular one, but a doctor with experience testing gifted children)

I sat, waiting for my daughter to be given a full-blown IQ test with all subtests.  We scheduled two testing days and blocked off about three hours for each day.  6 hours of testing.  It cost a small fortune (About 1/2 of my Disney savings)

Just after two hours on day ONE of testing, the psychologist came to the waiting room and said she needed to talk to me in her office.

My daughter was done testing.

At first, I totally had the mom fears…assuming my daughter refused to go no further…maybe she was tired or stressed or overworked…was there a fly in the room?!?

As I followed the doctor down the hall, I felt the familiar “embarrassment-over-my daughter’s-behavior” red face, cold sweat response start to creep up and cover my body.  I sat in a large, over-sized, comfy chair and faced the doctor to hear about my daughter’s refusal to complete the test.

The doctor said, “Your daughter is a delightful little girl.”

And, I just sat there…terrified that the next sentence would start with the word “But…”.

BUT…that word never came.  My daughter completed the test.  In two hours.  There was no need for a second day of testing.  The doctor asked me to give her a few minutes so she could do some preliminary calculating.  I sat there, still in complete denial.

My baby MUST have rushed through that test.  She was 6.5 years old.

And then the psychologist looked up from her paperwork and said a number.  My daughter’s IQ number.  My face was frozen.  The doctor told me that the test ceiling was 150.  (That is GREATLY important, as different IQ tests have different test ceilings, but I didn’t know that at this point in my journey.)

I did NOT feel ready to hear what she was saying.  I didn’t even really KNOW what she was saying.  My head was spinning.  Was I about to throw up?!?

My first thought was, “CRAP!  My husband should be here to hear this!”

THE day I received a diagnosis for what was “wrong” with our daughter…my husband should have been there.  (But, it was just the first day of testing!  Who knew?!?  Ugh!)

The psychologist spoke for several minutes…I didn’t even take notes or ask questions.  I was in complete shock.

EVERY score on EVERY subtest fell between the 98th-99.9th percentiles.  That means your daughter’s cognitive functions are in the very superior domain.  Her full-scale IQ is in the 99.9th percentile.  Your daughter is profoundly gifted.  Do you have other children?  They should be tested, too.”

As I sunk into that comfy chair in the psychologist’s office, all of the information sounded like a college-level symposium.  The doctor told me about several schooling options, as well as a private school for the highly gifted in Houston, Texas.  I made an appointment to come back and hear the full report…and bring my husband.  The life-changing meeting would be on my 39th birthday.

When we left the office, my daughter appeared more relaxed than normal.  I called my husband before I even started the car.

He didn’t answer.  (Does that ALWAYS happen to you or is it just me??)

Then, I realized I didn’t even write down her IQ score…or the subtest scores…or the name of the school in Houston.  UGH!  My mind was swirling.  What was wrong with me?!?

By May of 2012, we spent another small fortune (the other 1/2 of our Disney savings) to have our older daughter tested as well.  Her scores and subtests fell between the 84th and >99.9th percentiles.  We found out that her full-scale IQ is also in the profoundly gifted range.

Our girls are only 4 points apart, but their subtest scores are quite telling about the way their minds work and how they are wired differently.  Our youngest daughter’s scores label her “globally gifted”.  Our other daughter has a slower processing speed but scored off the chart, surpassing the test ceiling, in perceptual reasoning.  It explains A LOT.

So…this is how my ordinary life turned upside down.

And, this is also how my family became us.

Disclaimer info:

Though we don’t put ANY emphasis on IQ scores today, these tests did provide us with information that ultimately lead us down the right path.  No other books, doctors, websites or parenting suggestions gave us the information we actually needed.

The IQ tests and scores told us that my daughters (specifically my youngest) NEEDED to learn.

Learn quickly.  Learn A LOT.  Learn NOW.

Most profoundly gifted people have challenges which are called over excitabilities.  Without boring you with details, it has been suggested that profoundly gifted people take in about 200% more stimuli than the average human–that means more noise, more lights, more scents, more details, etc…and boy, does that explain my children.

The way my children experience the world is completely different than my experience–and that will not change.

I got to work immediately…I was going to find a way to reach my daughter.

journey17

To read the next part, click here.

To read the top 5 reasons we homeschool, click here.

Click here to read why Disney is so important to my family.

 

 


5 Comments

Flashback Posting Part 1

 

Flashback posting…

How did I get to this place?

Though I met my husband in 2nd grade (SUPER cool, huh?!?), we didn’t get married until we were 30 years old.  We never really dated…and…I’ll save that super cool story for another post.

Our first daughter was born in 2004…5 days before my son turned 11.  Eighteen months later, our second daughter came along.

This is the story of my family and how we became us.

journey10

 

journey1

Our wedding pic

So, between 2nd grade and 2003, when I married my husband, there was a lot of Jerry Springer stuff I plan to skip right over.  Maybe a juicy post to write in the future, but not today, friends.  What you need to know is that I was a public school art teacher and I was a single mom, happily raising my super awesome son all by myself.

journey2

journey6

journey3

journey11

The first time I took my son to Disneyland, he was 5 years old.  It took me all 5 years to save enough money for the two of us to fly to California.  During my own childhood, my parents took me and my sisters countless times and I wanted to create similar memories with my child.  At this point in time, the Disney nostalgia was the only driving force.

journey12

My son’s first trip to Disneyland.  1999.

In 2003, I “retired” from teaching right before my first daughter entered the world.  I never had the option to be a stay-at-home mom and I was excited about the new adventure.

journey7

We took a huge, multi-generational family vacation to Walt Disney World and enjoyed the Disney cruise during Christmas of 2004–Our son was 11 and our first daughter was 8 months.  It was the very first time my children went to Disney World.

I had no idea if or when we would return.

journey19

My first 2 babies on the Disney cruise.  2004.

Consumed with horrible ear infections, my first daughter was late to talk but she was unique and quirky from the beginning.  We read to her every day and every night.  She LOVED it.  She also loved puzzles, the alphabet and writing/drawing.  Tricky and smart, she figured out how to climb out of her crib WAY too early.  And, she is left-handed…like her momma!  (It’s not really important…I just like it.)  🙂

journey9

 

Our next daughter came along a year-and-a-half later.  My first daughter was NOT thrilled.  Her limited vocabulary reverted (bad ear infections, remember?) back to screams and demands.  The baby also entered our lives as the poster child for clinical colic.  To say it was a “nightmare” makes it sound better than the reality.  For real.

I felt like a CRA-Z, CRA-Z, CRA-Z person back then.

journey4

Christmas. 2005.

I planned/dreamed of getting in my car and driving away…like towards a different state…maybe towards Disney???

Have I mention my husband traveled for work?  Or that my father-in-law moved in with us while he searched for a job?  My son was sleeping on a beanbag couch in our living room, my 18 month old was screaming at me and the baby NEVER.  STOPPED.  CRYING.

Like I said…get in my car…drive away…be gone…FOREVER. 

It was not an easy season.

My doctor prescribed antidepressants and I needed them.

So…colic is fun…

Our baby cried non-stop for more than three months.  When I say “cried”…I’m talking about a red face that’s soooo red, it is almost purple.  Mouth wide open.  Hair so sweaty it drips.  For hours and hours and hours.  My husband had a vasectomy when she was 2 months old.  When I signed the consent form, I drew a happy face next to my name.  🙂  Not kidding.

I’m not going to lie…I had a VERY difficult time transitioning from single, working mom to married, stay-at-home mom with three kids.  It took some time for me to evolve.

journey13

 

Our first daughter was ready and super easy to potty train at 27 months.  Our baby potty trained herself at 22 months.  The girls learned to swim without floats on the same day.   They learned to ride their bikes without training wheels in the same afternoon.  Our youngest learned her letters, numbers, how to write, count, etc. before she turned one.  I chalked it up to her soaking in everything her older sister attempted.

In 2006, we took a second multi-generational Disney World vacation.  This time, we had all three of our kids.

journey20

Animal Kingdom. Christmas.  2006.

journey21

 

Back home, when I signed the girls up for preschool, our baby was the only one in her class that was potty trained and no longer used a sippy cup.  She held a pencil correctly and wrote her name.  She cried every day and didn’t like to go to school.

Our other daughter thrived in the environment.  Though she knew her letters and a few site words, she didn’t mind the academic repetition and she enjoyed the social interactions.

2008girls

Our youngest was rough.  She was draining.  And demanding.  And intense.  The parenting tools that worked for my other two children did NOT work for this one.  I attempted every avenue, read about different approaches, tried it all…I was exhausted–physically, mentally and emotionally.

journey24

Oddly enough, when we traveled to Walt Disney World in 2009, we had very few issues.  In fact, it seemed like our daughter was at peace and her anxiety levels decreased while we vacationed in Florida.  (Was it Disney magic???)

journey22

Disney World.  January.  2009.

journey23

Our youngest daughter, watching a Disney show on the castle stage.

In January of 2010, when the kids were 16, 5, and 4, my husband deployed to Iraq.

That puts a kink in things.

My emotionally intense middle one was so overcome with sadness that she almost threw up in the parking lot at the airport.  To say she was inconsolable, is putting it lightly.  The girls both cried for days.  And days.

Though we all eventually adjusted, my youngest daughter’s intensity, anger and frustrations grew.  She hated play groups and would retreat to the bedroom in search of silence.  Walmart overwhelmed her and I once sat on the filthy, concrete floor of the beverage isle rocking her in hopes of calming her down.  She was terrified of strangers, bugs (specifically flies), rain, loud sounds and changes in routine.

At this point in time, all of the books on my nightstand focused on military families, deployments and ways to help kids cope with an absent parent.  I assumed the challenges with the girls (mostly our youngest) would subside once my husband came home.

I learned from the books that an adjustment period should be expected.  So…I expected things to eventually get better.

 

thedayhecamehome

The day my husband returned from Iraq

 

We celebrated my husband’s return with another wonderful, joy-filled trip to Walt Disney World in January of 2011.

journey25

The Polynesian Village Resort. 2011.

After our Disney vacation and about six months after my husband returned home, things were not better.  Though the emotional intensity in our oldest daughter was easier to deal with, no one could effectively reach our youngest.  Her outbursts, fears and all-consuming freak-out sessions were controlling our family.  We begged and punished and ignored and yelled and cried and made behavior charts and Googled and I finally made an appointment with the pediatrician.

A chemical imbalance?  Hormones out-of-whack?  A rare disease?  Of course, I didn’t WANT her to have something but I wanted an answer…a reason…a way to help her…SOMETHING!  Armed with a notebook full of concerns, it took 4 adults to hold her down as they drew blood.  Everything was negative.

The doctor suggested we call a psychologist.

It took 5 meetings before my daughter would speak to the psychologist without me in the room.  She eventually looked forward to her weekly sessions and the “tools” sort of helped…breathing techniques, squeezing a pillow, a handmade “stomping” mat for anger outbursts.

In the summer of 2011, the psychologists said my daughter was bright and suggested I research Asperger’s Syndrome.

Books about the autistic spectrum replaced my military family collection and though my daughter’s “symptoms” were similar, she didn’t fit all of the characteristics.  Kids on the spectrum ARE different…so…I was even more confused.  Very confused.

My daughter needed to be assessed AFTER being in a social and academic environment that did not include her older sister.

The psychologist decided to get input from my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. I agreed.

Two weeks later, my youngest daughter entered kindergarten at age five…the ordinary time for a child to enter public school.  My other daughter started 2nd grade and my son left  for college. journey26

 

I wrote a two page letter to the school–explaining everything about my youngest daughter–and we were blessed with an understanding and accepting kindergarten teacher.

EVERY ounce of credit goes to that amazing teacher for changing the course of our lives and I have thanked her many times for seeing something in my daughter that I was too close to see.

I was drowning and she saved my youngest daughter and our entire family with one, seemingly simple decision.

You think this blog entry is getting too long?  Yeah, me too.  If you want to know what happened next, you’ll have to wait for the next post.  🙂

To read the next post, click here.

For part 3, click here.