Monday, December 31

New Years Thoughts

I'm just thinking about 2007 & WOW what a year! We spent the entire year with a child in our home and at times more than one child. We fostered other children through respites and held a child until CPS could come and pick them up to take her back to South Texas. Each of the children that have came through our home holds a special place in my heart. Each one special in their own way. May God bless all the children that have been in our house.

My husband lost is job in June & we finalized the adoption for Jasmine in August. God placed Rebecca on our hearts this summer and she was placed in our home at the end of October. We started signing classes in October & had help and learned from books and videos before then.

Jasmine has matured into quite the 9 year old! She is handling situations so much better and making wiser choices all the time. I love seeing how God is working in her life - it's amazing!!

Rebecca has only been here for 1/2 the year, but she has also learned a lot. Her social skills have improved and she is now using complete sentences most of the time. I have learned so much from this 10 year old!!

This year my family has grown through trials and triumphs. We have all learned and continue to learn sign language and have made new friends in the deaf community. I have fallen in love with the culture and the people that I have met. I have learned that having two children is definately harder than just one. I find it difficult to distribute my time evenly between my job, two children & my husband. I will continue to seek to find the best way to feel satisfied in each of these in 2008.

Where's The Color?

We are at Joe's dad's house and Grandpa put in some Betty Boop cartoons for the girls to watch while the adults visited. They started and Rebecca came to me with a concered look on her face and said, "Where's the color?". I did not realize what cartoon he had put in so I went over to the television and held back my laughter. I said, "This cartoon is old, they did not have color back when it was made. This is how it is supposed to be."

Kids, you gotta love them.

Thursday, December 27

I Was Born Deaf

On Christmas Eve there was a visitor at our church who was a Deaf gentleman in a wheelchair. A lady at our church introduced me to him and Rebecca looked at me and started signing "why". I knew what was next, I shifted my body between Rebecca and the man so that he couldn't see what was being said next. She said, "Why is he in a wheelchair - what happened?" and then she tried to move so that she could ask him directly without giving me a chance to answer - typical Rebecca. I interrupted her and told her that was rude, she said "why - what happened?". I said how would you feel if the first thing that he asked you was "Why are you Deaf?" - she said "Fine - I was born Deaf". She missed the point. Eventually, she gave up and didn't ask him.

Open Your Eyes

This month this has happened to us on several occasions. We walk into church and are looking for a good seat for us in front of the interpreter where the 4 of us can sit together & Rebecca can see. We are signing so it is obvious that at least one of us is Deaf. The seats in front are taken by hearing people. I go up and ask them if there is any way that we can sit there, my daughter is deaf - some move, some don't. The last couple of times our family has sat seperately - my husband and Jasmine sit together & I sit up front with Rebecca. One time after our family has already been seperated, a tall hearing man sat right in front of Rebecca, so we switched places so that she could look down the isle if she leaned over to see the interpreter. I told the man, but he either didn't understand me or just ignored me. I think to myself, was I this oblivious before...I don't think I was. At least, I hope that I never did anything that insensitive.

I was worse around Christmas I think because there was more people, but also because they had more things that the congregations had to go up on stage fore like children singing, so the parents wanted to sit up close to see their kids and get pictures. I get that, but not when there is an obvious need for someone else to be sitting close - MOVE!!

Maybe this is just something that I am going to have to get used to. I was talking to a friend of mine the other day that has a handicapped boyfriend in a wheelchair. She has gone through similar situations. People just need to be more aware and compassionate - especially in church. If it can't happen there, what hope do I have for other public places with interpreters for Rebecca.

Tuesday, December 25

Sign Names

It's funny to me how I never really thought about my family members names until we assigned sign names. We have Brittney, Bryde & Brookie - that was fun. Then we have William whose name used to be JJ so some people come him William and others JJ. We have Hailey who we call HayHay. Derek is JoBob. Andrea is Annie. Jasmine is Roo. The list goes on and on. Anyway, so what do we name - the legal name or the nickname? I let Rebecca choose and gave her both, like I would say this is Derek, but his nickname is JoBob - what do you want to call him?

We playes Cherrades, which Rebecca was of course awesome at. It was hard for her not to use the signs. Like 1 word that she drew was PHONE, the sign is what you act out - but she did great at it-she did it like it was a larger phone so it wasn't the sign. All the girl cousins painted each others nails and toes - we taught signs like wait, wet, dry. They really liked having Rebecca there and they learned a lot of signs.

Anyway, Christmas Eve was fantastic and I'm glad I got the opportunity to help think of unique sign names for my family members - everyone should put so much thought into a name.

Sunday, December 23

Christmas Is Almost Here!!

I'm so excited about this Christmas!! Last Christmas was our first Christmas morning with a child in the house. It was incredible. This Christmas there will be two children and with that comes twice the excitement. We still have gifts smuggled away in our room and may set some of them under the tree today. We are going to make a gingerbread house today, cookies & reindeer food tomorrow. We went to my parents last night and the kids got to open some of their first Christmas gifts. On Christmas Eve we are going to Oklahoma to visit with my grandmother - their great-grand-nana.

We are having a hard time with distinguishing between all the relatives and giving everyone sign names, but I think that we are doing it. Each name has a story behind it, like we will say "Nanny", do the sign, and then say "this is my mom, so it is your grandma & we call her Nanny". We realized this was going to be a trouble area pretty early on, we told her that we were going to see my mom & dad - told her their names & showed her pictures. Then we got to the house and she saw both of them and was asking for Grandpa, Joe's dad. It took us about 5 minutes to explain these were my parents, Nanny & Papa & that Grandpa was Joe's dad and we would see him on Christmas day.

This was my parents first time to see Rebecca, like everyone they couldn't get over how adorable she is & how much the sisters really do look alike. We had sent them pictures, but this was their first opportunity to see them. It was a night of a lot of learning sign language & they are going to take classes again with me in February. My family has been pretty great with seeing the kids as no different then their biological grandchildren. I am the first in my families generation to adopt, so my grandmother only had biological grandchildren before I adopted the girls. Joe's dad was in an orphanage growing up, so he has a special soft spot for the girls.

Nanny, my mom, was not so sure about me adopting a "special needs" child, but now that she has seen Rebecca I don't think that she would change a thing. To me, both of my children have special needs...Rebecca's is just more obvious.

I pray that everyone has a wonderful Christmas season! I'll let you know how it goes here, but I'm thinking it's going to be pretty incredible!

Wednesday, December 19

Big Decisions

Our daughter has only been with us for a couple of months and we've had to make some pretty big family decisions already. When she first came she was placed in general education with an itenerant, within 2 weeks I could already tell that was not going to be a good fit for her. We worked towards finding a better solution for her education goals. She is now in deaf ed for her main curriculum and in general ed for science, health, social studies, art, music & P.E. This was a very difficult dicision because I can understand both sides of the coin. On one side with her just being in deaf ed only she would feel more accepted because all the children would be deaf & she would be able to build her sign vocabulary more. With her just being in general ed she would learn how to intergrate better with hearing children and learn more oral skills. Her vocabulary is only that of a 5 year old even though she is 10 years old. I believe that by her being in deaf ed, they will build her vocabulary by giving her the extra attention that she needs to understand each word. I'm very excited and optimistic about her education future. We of course are reinforcing the same objectives at home that the school has for her. They are things like speaking and signing (simotaneously) in complete sentences, counting money, telling time, etc.

We also had to choose which sign language we were going to use. Her school and our church signs SEE 2, so for right now we thought that would be the best option for Rebecca. It would give her more consistency and help her to learn to write and speak in complete sentences. I have nothing against ASL, PSE or any other language. I just believe that for now SEE 2 would help her the most because it will give her consistency. If her school and our church used ASL, then I am sure that we would be signing ASL. Later after she has a language foundation, we plan to teach her ASL but right now I don't think it is the right option. Again, this was not an easy decision but probably one of the most important decisions.

Deciding to move forward and have Rebecca in our home was an enormous decision. My younger daughter had only been with us for one year and we were about to finalize her adoption when God opened the door for us. There were many steps in getting her in our home and everyone was skeptical and looking back at them I don't know if I can blame them. Our other daughter was barely getting her ground in being a family, she also has had in the past major behavioral concerns, the children were specifically seperated by CPS, Jamsine's file said for her not to be placed in a home with any special needs children & we didn't know sign language. We had just a few things to overcome, but we started learning everything that we could about the deaf community, learned sign language, prepared our other daughter & did a lot of praying and lobbying for her.

Every parent has to make decisions that effect the outcome of their childrens lives. I pray that the decisions that I have made are the correct ones. I know that having Rebecca in our lives has only improved us and our family. We had to work hard to get her in our lives, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Friday, December 14

What A Day In My Life Looks Like

This morning like every morning I got up at 4:30am, took a shower & got ready. At 5am, I woke up Rebecca - this takes about 20 or 30 minutes to get her out of bed. It is difficult to wake up a child who cannot hear and will not look at you. She covers her head with pillows and blankets, which I remove 1 by 1 until there's none. She then uses her hands, legs and chest to cover her head. After shaking her, tickling her, motioning and talking to her when I can, she finally sits up in her bed. Then she normally lays back down & we play that game a few times until finally she is standing - sometimes she lays back down after I leave the room and we get to start all over again. By 5:30 she is usually in the shower and out by 5:45. For those 15 minutes I am getting lunch together and listening to the weather, because once she is out of the shower she wants to know the weather so that she can spend the next 10 minutes figuring out if what she picked out the night before is still sufficient, which most of the time she finds that it was not good enough and wants to change her outfit again. After the clothing drama is complete, she starts to eat the breakfast that I have made for her in the 10 minutes that she was changing clothes and getting dressed. Now we only have about 15 minutes before the bus gets here, so I am brushing hair while she is eating. I also get her cochlear implant out with her glasses and set them on the table for her. After she is finished eating she puts on her shoes, grabs her backpack, jacket & lunchbox. While she is doing that I am turning on Christmas lights & our sidewalk lights so that she walk independently to the bus. If we have extra time before the bus comes, we make sentences out of sight words. Once the bus is here, about 1/2 way to the bus we do the textile ILY and then we hug. I wave to her as the leaves on the bus.

I then have about 30 minutes before it is time to wake up my other daughter. During those 30 minutes I pick up around the house and do my daily devotional.

At 7:45, it is time for round 2. I wake up Jasmine which goes a lot quicker getting her out of bed, but she takes longer in the shower and is really slow at getting dressed. While she is in the shower I am making lunch #2 and while she is getting dressed I am cooking her breakfast. I normally sit down and eat breakfast with her - this gives us some special time since the rest of the day will be more about Rebecca. She then finishes getting ready for school & I drive her to the school which is about 10 minutes away. We do a small devotional on the way to school with a memory verse and we also talk about anything else that is going on today - appointments, activities, etc.

After I drop her off, I am off to work. I work in the real estate field, but I am not a Realtor. My boss has been very good about offering me flexibility, even though my job is not a very flexible position.

Rebecca goes to an after school program and I pick her up around 6pm. We live 45 minutes from the school, so I spend all of that one-on-one time with her. Once we get home, we usually go out to eat (I know, I'm horrible - but it is 7pm!). While we are out we are all pointing things out and filling Rebecca with words. When we get back home it is around 8pm and now the girls get ready for bed. After both the girls get ready, we talk about our day - name the favorite part of our day so that we can thank God for that. Then we each take turns with saying prayers and I interpret the prayers for Rebecca.

If both girls have had a good day and have not lost any privileges, they can earn "bonus time", this is time that they have to do an activity of their choice before bed. It can be a bedtime story, finishing something that they started earlier that day, watching television, playing on the computer, playing with toys, etc. They both really work hard all day to earn this time. If they lose this time earlier in the day they also have chances to earn it back. While they are having their bonus time, I am making a bedtime snack and getting each of the girls a water.

After we pray and have bonus time, we go individually into each girls room and tuck them in and say goodnight. I remove Rebecca's CI and glasses. We do the textile ILY with both girls and continue signing everything that I say to them. We hug and kiss them and then it is time for bed.

They finally get in bed around 8:30-8:45. Now my husband and I go to our room and write the notes for the day, and anything personal that we need to discuss. I turn on the television and maybe get through one of my shows or finish the one that I started the night before. We are both exhausted and go to sleep around 10pm. Now we are ready go get up and do it all over again.

The weekends, school activities and other things of course come up that make this much more fun, but this is our normal day. We try to go to as many school activities as we can. Last month I went to a pep-a-rally, science fair, story time (that had an interpreter) and a school dance. We've also had Christmas parties, gave out gifts to the less fortunate in our city, had Foster care yearly training, CPS visit, agency visit and went to a holiday breakfast. This next week I will have 3 more holiday parties, school parties and caroling.

We never have a dull moment and try to get the girls as involved as we can. Everyone knows Rebecca and she melts hearts where ever she goes. I want her to experience everything that any child would experience. I think that is really important.

Our life is pretty normal except for us having to count stairs, make sure everywhere is lit well, having the long commute to and from school, dealing with 2 different school districts, guiding in crowded situations & always having to explain the condition to people who don't know better.

Anyway, there's my life in a nutshell.

Wednesday, December 12

Thank You

Thank you to everyone for your suggessions. You have wonderful ideas and thoughts. I can only imagine and try to guess what Rebecca is feeling, you guys know what is going on & I appreciate you sharing your experiences and thoughts with me. Thank you for your support.

Sunday, December 9

Does She Lipread?

I am starting to really get annoyed with that question? When we are at a playcare, McDonalds, ordering food or anywhere that there is involvement with hearing people I get that question right after the OOOHHH. Rebecca is a very outgoing child and I love that about her. She will start talking and you can tell that she is deaf from her voice. I will start signing to Rebecca what that person just said and they will say, "OHHHHH, does she lipread?" In other words, I really wanted to talk to her, but if she can't read lips I don't have the time for you to interpret for me.

I say, "Yes, she can lipread a little bit - but it is better if we sign and talk to her". They may stick around and talk a little more but you can see their attitude changed the moment I said yes. I have also said in the conversation that she has an implant and that is like giving the hearing person a license to not look at her as much when they talk, so I don't point it out unless they ask. I have also noticed that they tend to talk to me after they know that she is deaf, not to her. That is also annoying. You are having the conversation with her, not me. This even happened with Santa Claus.

There have been a couple of instances where people have talked to her more than me and thos people normally have some experience with the deaf community or even know some signs.

How do you respond to the question, "Do you lipread?" Is it easier to just say yes or is there a better response? I have educated the people that we talk to all the time, but the others I generally just tell them yes-a little bit and go on. I mean she is ten - lipreading is very difficult I have tried it and find it very tiring and hard. She can get around fine in the hearing world and has had to be left without an interpreter and has been fine. This is not the norm and I do try to be there with her or at least have her sister with her to help, but there are some instances that we have not been able to avoid. I am hoping those times will help her be able to cope in the hearing world better. We have learned to ask ahead of time if someone can be there to interpret, most of the time there is not and I try to be there. We were also caught off guard one time at church without an interpreter - it was a special event and I just assumed there would be someone there - there was not and the speaker had a beard, an accent and carried the mic in front of his face. I learned my lesson very quickly.

Anyway, I got a little off track - "Do you lipread?" What are you feelings on that question? Personally, it irritates me and just tells me that they are looking for the easy way out.

Saturday, December 8

Awesome Kids

Some days one of the children will come up to me and say something that just makes me realize how far they have come. Even Rebecca so far, even though it hasn't been that long. Rebecca is now asking for most things in a complete sentence without me helping her with every word. Jasmine is now talking most things out instead of everything coming out in the form of anger.

These children have overcame in are still overcoming big obstacles. I love that I get to see that! Jasmine is learing sign language and we are all using total communication in our home. Everything that is said is signed and voiced at the same time, even if we are saying it to the dog!

Both of my children are incredible, awesome and inspiring kids! I know that they will go on and become terrific adults who advocate for Usher Syndrome and foster/adoptive children. They keep me and my husband going. We can wake up on an emotional empty and they fill our cups.

Today we are going to a Christmas party with the kids. I can't wait for all the new words that I will get to share with Rebecca today. We have started her word book with magazine pictures and today I know that I will get more photo pictures that will help her.

Thank you everyone for your prayers, I want to let you know that they are being seen in our family.

Monday, December 3

Growing Up

How do I talk to Rebecca about puberty? She doesn't even understand some simple concepts. How was you told about your monthly visitor? I've gotten several peoples opinions, but wanted to get more.

Here sister is almost 9 and we've already had "the talk" with her. I feel that being open and honest is the best and I would rather tell them then to have them surprised when it happens.

Rebecca's vocabulary is still close to a 6 year old & sometimes not even that. She is also emotionally immature and I have this horrible vision that comes across my mind. She runs up to strangers and says "You bleeding?". I know that may seem silly to you, but I am serious - I could really see her doing that. We are working on so many things with her right now while still letting her be a kid. I am afraid that she is not ready for the conversation, but I do not want her to be shocked when it happens either. Please help.