Craving Dole Whip

Disney & museum obsessed, homeschooling mom of 3, parenting to focus on experiences, not possessions. Sharing Disney tips, educational adventures and a few reviews. Constantly craving Dole Whip.


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5 BIG Surprises About My Life With Profoundly Gifted Children

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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 12 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 12-year-old once powered through four years of math in 6 months and began her college career at age 10, she struggles to remember to capitalize the first letter of a sentence.  For real.

My 14-year-old won the public school (when she was 8) and homeschool spelling bee and read on a post college level at age 6, 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.  My youngest daughter is a 75 year old man trapped in a 12 year old girl’s body.

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 (and social interactions) 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.

 

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How did I become a homeschooling momma?  Read this.

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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.

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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!

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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.


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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 45 in April.  YIKES!  As a family, we traveled to Disneyland and Walt Disney World so many times that no one kept count!  (FUN!) 

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That’s me on the left, my sister on the right.  (The matching shirt obsession seed was planted WAY back then!)

Pretty Ordinary.

I enjoyed public school in a small suburb of Houston and graduated from  high school 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.

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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.  🙂

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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.

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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.

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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 (without studying or any prep!) or that he collects vintage video gaming systems, would you picture this guy?

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Probably not!  LOL!

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My son will be 25 in April.  (WOW!)  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.

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Well-rounded, adjusted, happy AND very intelligent.  He makes my heart so very happy.  My son is an independent, forward-thinking, witty, sensitive and thoughtful man, an animal lover with a passion for good food, craft beer and board games.  I love him fiercely.

 

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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.

Click here to read 5 BIG surprises about my life with profoundly gifted kids.

Want to know why we chose to homeschool?  Click here.

 

 

 

 

 


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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)  🙂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Animal Kingdom. Christmas.  2006.

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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.

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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.

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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???)

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Disney World.  January.  2009.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.