Thursday, July 30, 2015

I Climb For Juli...

Those who know me, know that my daughter, Juliana, has faced some difficulties in her 6 years with us.  They started at birth with her VSD heart defect, then she refused to eat, followed with her developmental delay.  She has seen an array of specialists, all of whom have helped us in different ways.  The one I am going to highlight in this post is Dr. Gaebler at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC).

We were referred to Dr. Gaebler by Juli's GI doctor when Juli was about a year old.  Juli had noticeable weakness on her left side and her GI doctor was curious if that had any impact on why Juli didn't like to eat.  Our visits over the past 5 years have never given us insight into why Juli doesn't like to eat, but they have taken us down a different path.  I learned new lingo: AFO and UCB (the different braces/orthotics that Juli wears).
Juli's old AFO's, she has graduated to UCB's now 
We had even more tests done and were referred to different specialists from there.  Finally, this year, Dr. Gaebler was the first doctor who gave us names/diagnoses for what is going on with Juli and from there, doors continued to open.

Juli was diagnosed with Developmental Coordination Disorder along with Sensory Processing Disorder by Dr. Gaebler.  From there, our Developmental Pediatrician tested Juli and she tested high for anxiety (which broke my heart to hear that my 6 year old has anxiety, but it explained so much) and inattentive ADHD.  She will never outgrow Developmental Coordination Disorder and it will make learning difficult for her.  To help with this, we have added Occupational Therapy outside of the school (she already receives it during school). With the Sensory Processing Disorder, she is learning to handle it in her OT sessions.  Her screaming episodes where she becomes overwhelmed and doesn't know how to process are decreasing, although now she will "shut down" in order to shut out all of the sensory information.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because on November 8th, I am participating in the SkyRise Chicago Tower Up Climb benefiting the RIC.  Juli asked me to do the climb, and how could I say no to this face?
So, I need to raise $150 in order to climb the 103 flights of stairs, and I am hoping some of you will sponsor me.  I want to make this little girl proud of her mom.

**If you click on the words "sponsor me" it will take you to my page.  I am overwhelmed already by those who have donated. Thank you so much!**

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

God Is Good...

Back in May, I posted a little bit about how the end of the school year sucked and I had to deal with having my character challenged.  At the end of the school year, there was a mass exodus of a bunch of people who had done little to help me out, and some new people were hired, who I knew would have my back.  However, with school starting back up in less than 2 weeks my anxiety level had begun rise to epic proportions starting last week.  I was having nightmares every night of having to work with the person who had done this to me.  Over the summer, I had worked on forgiving this person, but I knew that trusting that person wasn't going to happen, at least right away.

Last night, my cell phone rang, and it wasn't one of my set ringtones, so I almost didn't look to see who it was.  I am glad I did.  It was our new division chair.  Our conversation went like this, "Hey Jenna, I don't know if you're going to be happy about this, but I have some news about your Chemistry team."  My stomach dropped.  Had I been removed...again?  I had been summoned in over the summer by the new Assistant Principal to explain to him what had gone on, and I had made sure I was professional the entire time.  "Am I off the team again?"  "You're still on the team and so is Grant."  "Okay, then what's not to like?"  "Well, so and so has been removed from the team this year to go teach math.  You will have a new co-teacher on your team."  Immediately my anxiety level dropped, and I said as much.

God is good.  I also don't find it a coincidence that yesterday morning I started 2 studies on anxiety, because I couldn't handle myself anymore.  Thank you, Jesus, this year will be a better year.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Character Challenge...

I'm not going to lie to you, the month of May has sucked.  I can even tell you the date the month began sucking for me, May 6th.  That is the day that all hell broke loose, and an attack on my character began.

I've never really had to defend who I am.  My character has usually spoken for itself.  Sure, I have made my share of mistakes, but I typically own up to those mistakes.  In this instance, I didn't do anything wrong, but my word meant nothing, length of time served meant nothing, who I was meant nothing.  Fortunately, I had allies, who found out my character was being attacked and came to my defense, which unfortunately also put them in the hot seat.  Never have I been in the office so many times in 1 month having to defend myself.  I will admit, I lost my temper on multiple times.  I did not always display a good Christian mouth (in fact mom, you probably would have put soap in my mouth one of the times- but I did apologize later for my language use), but I fought for what was right, and when it finally came down to what was right, it was found in my favor (it took the entire month, but I did come out on top).

Now here's the one thing I am struggling with: forgiveness.  I know that I need to forgive the person who caused this in the first place.  I don't want to.  Not yet.  I'm so angry that I had to go through almost 4 weeks of daily battles, that I'm not ready to forgive her.  I need to though, but it's hard to forgive someone when they don't feel any remorse for what they have done to you.

Matthew West has a song, "Forgiveness", and the lyrics are so true to everything that I am feeling towards this person right now.

It is definitely something I will be working on and praying for this summer, that God can help me soften my heart so that I can forgive this person who hurt me like this, especially since I have to work very closely with them in the fall.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sean McGrail...

Numb.  I am still numb.  Tomorrow, I attend your wake and Tuesday, your funeral.  It is hard for me to believe that you are gone, and yet you are.  I have cried so many tears in the last 2 weeks, and still I grieve for you, for your family, for your mom.

Your accident happened on May 1st, and I found out on May 3rd.  Our family immediately began to pray for you.  We share a friend, Stephanie, who encouraged me to go visit you in the hospital, and on Tuesday, I made my first visit.

Your mom welcomed me with a hug and thanked me for coming.  She took me by the hand and as she led me down the hall to see you, her first question was: "How is your daughter doing?"  I almost began to cry right then, because that was always your first question to me.  "How is your daughter doing? I'm praying for her," you would say those words every time you saw me.  You got your compassion and kindness from your mom.  We went into your room, you were all bandaged up, bruised, connected to monitors.  I took your hand and spoke to you.  In our last email exchange, I had promised to take you out to lunch once school was out, and I reminded you of that promise.  Your mom and I talked about you, she shared stories about you and I shared stories about you in class- your sense of humor, how you loved to listen to The Beatles.  After our visit, I promised your mom I would come back again.

I didn't get a chance to make it back to the hospital again until Mother's Day.  Things had changed by then.  You had developed pnuemonia and a blood infection.  You had had an MRI and the results were not good.  On the outside, you were looking more like Sean, but on the inside you were fighting the battle of your life.  I held your hand again and spoke to you.  One of your friends had come at the same time as me and the 2 of us shared stories with your mom about you.  I had spent all weekend looking through pictures for a certain picture I had taken of a drawing you had made on the board, so I could show it to your mom while I told her the story:  The year I had you, my co-teacher, Lisa Jett, was on a rant about someone being disrespectful in the classroom.  To lighten the mood while she was still on her rant, you got up out of your seat, went to the board and drew a picture.  When you were done, I burst out laughing.  Jett stopped mid-rant, and looked at the picture.  You looked right at her and said, "let's bring it in for a group hug now", walked over to her and gave her a giant bear hug.  The two of us laughed so hard we cried that day.  You were good at making us laugh when we needed to.  At the end of my visit, I promised your mom I would come back again.

At school the next day, I was searching through a folder, and I stumbled upon an essay you wrote your senior year for your English class.  Your English teacher had given it to me, and God had me find it that day because He knew I needed some comfort.

The last time I visited you was on Wednesday, May 13.  When I got to the hospital, I knew something had changed because I was asked for a pass code, and I didn't know it.  I had brought a small gift for you and your mom, but I had to leave it at the desk with a note.  I messaged Stephanie and she told me the code and a minute later I was messaged again by someone who had brought my gift to your mom and she had asked them to get me back.  I went back to the hospital, and as I got off the elevator, I knew something was wrong.  I caught some words being said to your mom and then she walked over to your dad and collapsed into tears on the floor.  I turned to leave, but she asked me to say.

Your mom gave me a hug and thanked me for coming.  As we walked down the hall to see you, she said to me: "it shouldn't have been 1994-2015" and the two of us cried together outside of your room.  We went in to see you, Shannon and Maggie were on either side of you holding your hands and talking to you.  I held your hand, I kissed your arm and told you I loved you before I left your room.  I gave your dad a hug and told him how sorry I was, I hugged your mom and told her how much I loved your family.  They shared pictures of you with me, pictures of when you were little, before I knew you.  Your mom showed me the letter you had just received from the head coach of Notre Dame, telling you he was praying for you.  Before I left, I promised your mom I would get your football jersey's from South for her.

On Thursday, Stephanie messaged me to start praying and to keep praying.  I prayed and prayed, and so did my family.  When I got the message that you were at peace in the arms of Jesus, I went into the bathroom and cried. I cried for your mom and dad and brother and sisters.

Seany, you were one of the kindest, compassionate, unselfish kids I have ever had in my classroom.  Your last act on this Earth was to donate your organs so that someone else could continue living.  I am so proud and blessed to have known you.  On Friday, when I picked up your football jerseys, I clutched them to my chest and walked into my classroom.  One of my students who is autistic asked me what I was carrying.  I explained, and he said: "He sounded like a really cool kid. I bet he would have been my friend."  I said to him, "You wouldn't have to bet.  He would have been your friend."

I have been a teacher for 14 years.  In those 14 years, I have lost 4 students.  This is the one thing they don't prepare you for.

Sean, you were one of my favorite students of all times.  You will always have a piece of my heart.
Sean McGrail 1994-2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

To Juli, On Your 6th Birthday...

Dear Juli,

What a year this has been for you!  You started Kindergarten, were discharged from Physical Therapy, had intestinal issues, began additional Occupational Therapy, had an MRI, saw some new doctors, began to learn to read and finally received your first diagnosis.

You have grown in so many ways.  You no longer fit in most of your 4T clothing, and we had to buy you a new pair of shoes in the middle of the school year, not because you wore them out.  You are learning to sit in a classroom with your peers with fewer prompts to be on task.  You mastered all of your speech goals that followed you from preschool, so Mrs. Hare gave you some much harder ones to master.  You are so proud to have moved up into SouthField Big Kids at church, but you are thankful that Ms. Patty lets you still come into SouthField Little Kids this year, because you love her so much.

You love your family and extended family so very much.  Every day when you see Noah walking out of school, you run and greet him with a hug.  You love snuggle time at bedtime, and we play game after game of "rock, paper, scissors" in the dark.  You love your cousins so much.  You and Brendan are still the Bubbas that find trouble around every corner, but you have also discovered Rori and learned how to play "Ameri-Girl" dolls (thank God for Auntie Jaime and her ability to find American Girl Dolls when they are on sale, or you would not have one!).  You love all your grandparents and tell stories about them all the time.
The Bubbas- Aren't they adorable?

One of your favorite places to eat is Chik-Fil-A, and you love to play in their indoor playground.  Your daddy is taking you there tonight- they are having a "Daddy-Daughter" night and he signed the 2 of you up as soon as he found out about it (surprise!).  I know you two will have a wonderful time.

The Daddy-Daughter Dance at School
You love to sing and dance to music.  When the music is on in the van, I can hear you singing along, especially to: "Thrive", "Soul on Fire", "God's Not Dead", & "Overwhelmed".  A lot of the time, in the morning, we know you are awake because we can hear you singing your version of Colton Dixon's "You Are"- "if I had no voice, if I had no tongue, I would dance for you like the rising sun..."

You like to say things like: "You're my best mom" or "You're my best dad".  On Friday, when you saw your daddy working so hard on your Frozen cake, you said, "Daddy, it's okay if you can't make it a Frozen cake. I will love it no matter what, cuz you're my best dad."

My husband has skills, doesn't he?

You have a special heart, my punkin horsie.  I love you to the moon and back!  Happy Birthday, Juli Rose!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Birthday Blessings...

So, today is my birthday.  Normally, I don't think much about it.  It's just a day, to be honest.  This year, Ryan had to be out of town on my birthday, and I don't know why, but it bothered me a bit.  Maybe it was because Noah and Juli have been fighting A LOT lately, or maybe it was because we aren't on spring break like usual.  Something was bothering me all week, and I just kept praying that it would go away and I would have a good day on the 26th.  Well... I did (minus some school chaos), which tells you God is good.

My morning started out with waking the kids up at 6 AM.  Both of them got out of bed and they were happy.  Unbelievable.  There were no tears or yelling from either of them!  We got downstairs to breakfast in record time.  They even took care of their breakfast dishes while I ran upstairs to start a load of laundry.  Un-heard-of.

I walked into my classroom to a: "Surprise! Happy Birthday!"  Two students who had graduated last year had come in and decorated my classroom!  Not only that, but they had made me cupcakes, bought me flowers, balloons, a birthday crown, & a gift card to Jamba Juice!  Plus, they made me scream, because they scared the living daylights out of me (it was a good thing I didn't need to pee).  Then, they stayed and helped a co-worker and me set up our egg lab for the day.
Not only was the frosting different colors, but the girls had dyed the cupcake batter different colors too!
Aren't my flowers BEAUTIFUL?!?
The 2 culprits: Audrey & Maria
During 2nd period, a student I had the year before came in to give me a package of Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs and Peanut Butter Oreo Cookies.  My 3rd period class conspired to throw me a birthday party!  My amazing TA baked 3 different delicious treats (they were so yummy), and students showered me with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Reese's Pieces, Gum, & Lotion- they know me all too well.  6th period the Easter Bunny (no joke) hopped into my room and wished me a "Happy Birthday" and gave me an Easter Egg.  Then she hopped back out and went back to visit the preschoolers.  Throughout the day, students added to the birthday notes on my whiteboard.  I have never felt so loved.
The delicious treats made by Judy, my TA (ignore the eggs, those were for the lab)
Part of the party by my 3rd period class
After school, when I picked up both kids, normally we go through the "hangry" phase where they both need a snack ASAP because the fighting commences as soon as they see each other (due to being hungry), but we skipped that phase.  They still had their snack, but there was no fighting, no ugliness.  We ran errands and talked about our days at school and got along.
My board at the end of the school day- I am truly blessed
God is good, and I was truly blessed today.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

My Sunshine Turns 8 Today...

My Ray of Sunshine turns 8 today.  It is hard to believe that it has been 8 years since he was born.  Since Noah is 8, I have compiled a list of 8 things I think you should know about Noah.

1) He always has a smile on his face, which is why we call him a "ray of sunshine".  Since he was baby, it is rare to see him without a smile.

2) Noah loves his little sister, Juliana, so very much.  He would do anything for her.  Last year when we were walking home from school, Noah and Juli were walking ahead of me and I noticed Noah yelling at some girls.  When I caught up, Noah told me that 2 girls had been making fun of the braces that Juli wore on her ankles.  The momma bear in me got angry, but Noah told me, "don't worry, Mom, I took care of it".

3)  Noah loves his cousins.  He looks forward to the times he gets to play with them, especially Rori and Liam.  We wish they lived closer so we could see them more often- that means you too, Candise!

4) He loves to listen to music and sing (he is going to be very sad when he realizes that he gets his singing talent from me).  When he is in the shower, you can always be treated to a song he has sung in church or school, or a song we listen to at home.  Right now you can usually hear him singing: "Soul on Fire" by Third Day, "Live Like That" by Sidewalk Prophets, and "Our God" by Chris Tomlin.

5) He loves to build.  Noah can build anything out of Legos, Duplos, K'Nex or anything you give him.  He says he wants to be a Dolphin Trainer when he grows up, but I honestly see some type of engineer in his future.  This year it was Noah's turn to have a birthday party (every other year we have enough money for each kid to have a non-family party- we started when Noah was 5 & Juli had her first party last year) and he wanted to use the money instead to go to the Lego Store in Chicago and buy Legos.  So this coming weekend, we are headed downtown to get him some more Legos.

6) The kid loves to read.  His backpack always has at least 2 books in it to read at day care and at school.  He likes to read funny books, so he enjoys: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, How To Train Your Dragon, The Adventures of Frankie Pickle, the Lunch Lady series.  I love the Plainfield Library, because all I had to do was tell the librarian that he liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate and she loaded Noah up with all these new authors for him to try and then told him to come back and tell her which ones he liked best so she could help him find even more.

7) Noah loves his grandparents, both sets, and doesn't get to see them enough (guilt trip accomplished).  In Noah's ideal world, both sets of grandparents would live next door so that he could see them all the time.  Unfortunately, one set lives about 2 hours away and the other set lives in Arizona, but he has learned to treasure the time he has with them. (The grandpas are hard to find in pictures with Noah because he is usually doing something active with them at the time).

8) Noah is all about family time.  He loves to do family movie night or family game night.  His current favorite game is King of Tokyo (the struggle is real) and he is ruthless when he plays it, and if he had his way (and Juli did too) we would play it every night.

Happy birthday, Sunshine!  I can't wait to see what this next year brings us!