Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Learning to Listen

I've learned to listen to me. 
Not anyone else. 
I've learned to trust my own instincts when it comes to Erin. 

Since I became a mother in 2003, I've had to learn so much. 
I listened to many people. 
Do this. 
Don't do this. 
Do that.

One person decided that since I wasn't going to mother my child the way she mothered her own child, she didn't want me in her life.  I wasn't listening.  To her.  I cried about it.  For weeks.

That's how I felt.

Here we are almost 8 years later.  I'm finally learning to listen.  To Me.  No one else.

Each year in school, I was concerned about Erin's progress.  She wasn't keeping up.  Everyone told me to wait until Winter Break.  She'll catch up around Christmas they all told me.

This year I stopped listening to everyone else.  I approached Erin's teachers almost immediately with my concerns.  To a one they all listened.  To me.  This time someone was listening to what I had to say.

So now Erin reads.  But doesn't comprehend what she's reading.
So now Erin can do simple math.  But doesn't retain it.
So now Erin can write a small essay.  But doesn't always keep on track.

So now I've put my foot down.

I have 4 amazing advocates for Erin at her school.  Her 3 teachers have been with me each & every step of the way.  Her principal has listened to what I have to say.

I am so sad that I never made anyone sit up & listen & hear.
To Erin.  Who was floundering.
To Me.  Who had the degree & is the parent but was unsure.

We received the results of Erin's benchmark testing & the FCAT.
They heard me.
But more importantly they heard Erin.

If you've heard me. 
In some small way. 
Learn my lesson. 

Listen to yourself.
But most importantly.
Listen to your child.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Her Eyes Rock!

Today was the appointment to have Erin's vision checked.  I am always amazed at how Erin takes some things in stride.  I hate going to the eye doctor.  I've been seeing them since I was 2, and it hasn't changed for me.  The experience is always awful. 

When they called both Erin and me at the same time, I wanted her to go first.  My theory was that if she went first, then she wouldn't see me all stressed out.  I shouldn't have worried.  She breezed right through the exam.  David and I told him our different concerns - dyslexia (his concern) and developmental issues (my concern).  Dr. Gendall was thrilled with Erin.  According to him, she has perfect vision and her vision tracking is so good that she should be an athlete.  Good guess since she has been taking karate since she was 4 1/2 and loves to play sports!

Apparently my college education was valid.  It is his opinion that any issues are developmental due to her young age.  He recommended a doctor to have her evaluated, and I will definitely be looking into this.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Oh So Special Annie T

Annie became a very special person in our lives when Erin was about 18 months old.  She used to be a server at one of our very favorite sushi places. 

From the first time that they saw each other, both Annie & Erin have had a connection.  Back then, Erin wanted nothing to do with anyone or anything even slightly Asian.  Annie quickly set about making sure that Erin realized being Chinese was special.  When we went to the restaurant, she always took special care of Erin - drawing her famous mini-rabbit on Erin's lemonade cups, teaching her to use chopsticks, even taking her to see the koi pond that is in the restaurant!

When Erin was about 4, Annie left the restaurant & moved south.  Before she left, Annie wanted to make sure that Erin didn't forget her & gave her a gift.  Of course, you know it had to be a bunny.  Yup.  A 5 foot tall stuffed, pink rabbit.  We actually kept it until this past week when we discovered that Riker & Troi had been giving Pink Bunny (Erin named it!) a haircut. 

We even went to visit Annie once at the restaurant that she moved to.  Yes.  David drove an hour just to go see this very special person.  Anyone who knows David, knows he doesn't go anywhere unless there is a very good reason! In the middle of the day.  In the middle of a crowded restaurant.  Annie & Erin saw each other & the tone for the afternoon was set.  Yes.  This girl must have been special.

David & I always talked about how we needed to go & visit Annie, but time got away from us.  Between both of our jobs, being parents & life in general, we never made it down to visit Annie again.  It bothered us, & we lost touch for a while.

FaceB**k is so amazing that Annie & I found each other again.  Immediately she asked how Erin was doing  & wanted to see pics.  When Erin discovered that Annie was one of my FB friends, she demanded to see pics of Annie.  Since this time, Annie has gone on to a wonderful career working with the Taiwan Cultural Association.  (Sorry if I got the exact name wrong Annie.) 

Annie has continually invited all of us to the many Asian cultural events in S FL.  She insists that Erin be proud of who she is & where she came from.  That said, a few days ago Annie sent us tickets to the Taiwanese American Heritage "Chinese Diabolo & Folk Sports Performance" event that was practically around the corner from our house.  Erin asked that her buddy Chianna come to the event along with her parents. 

What a great evening!! Both Erin & Chianna were totally amazed by the kids' performance.  Heck! Shari, Myke & I were pretty amazed too!  To top it all off, Annie & Erin got to see each other after 4 years.  I don't know who was more excited!

Annie, thank you.  Thank you for being such a kind & caring person.  Thank you for helping Erin to see that being Chinese is important.  Thank you for being you!

Oh! And Annie, I finally found the chops that we got from China.  Now we have to get together again so you can translate them for me.  Let's not wait another 4 years!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Swimming Lessons

Woo hoo!! We finally did it!

Over the last few years Erin has learned to enjoy swimming.  She enjoys it so much that our neighbors think she came with their pool.  ;-)

Aside from a few lessons back when Erin & I traveled to Texas for our travel group reunion, she has never been given formal lessons.  Living where we do, that is a big no no.  Sad to say, but drowning is something we hear about almost weekly in S FL.  Whenever we have allowed Erin to go swimming, there has always been someone around who is certified in CPR.

Since Erin isn't going to camp this summer, David & I are trying to find ways to fill her days.  I've been talking with my friend Lisa about swimming lessons.  Her son & daughter take them each summer.  This time I decided that I would look into getting Erin the formal lessons she really needs to have.

With Lisa's help, I found out where our city gives the lessons & evaluates the children to see where they are at in their swimming skills.  This morning, after a world class tantrum about how she knows everything there is to know about swimming, David & I took Erin to get evaluated.  The young lady who did the evaluation was very nice & explained to Erin that there are always things to learn.

So.  Erin starts taking Swimming Fundamentals 2 on June 4th.  We couldn't find a time during the week that worked.  All of the available time slots were either at 8:00 am or at 5:00 pm.  We had told Erin that this summer she could sleep late.  8:00 am class wasn't going to let her do that.  The 5:00 pm class was going to coincide with her karate lessons.  Karate is a priority in our home.  Not knowing what to do, we turned the decision over to Erin.  She decided to take her lessons on Saturday & Sunday mornings at 11:00 am.  We're hoping she won't complain too much since she made the choice.  We'll see. 

Either way, Erin is all set to learn about proper breathing & swim strokes.  She looks good in the water & does have a good base but needs to get more of a foundation.  If she likes it, maybe we'll sign her up for another session.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Have I Really Failed Her?

Where do I start?  There is so much going on.  I feel as if I've failed Erin in some way.  Actually in many ways.  Perhaps I've been too pigheaded, stubborn or not wanted to see what was going on.  Now that I see it, all I can do is cry.

Erin has a late summer birthday - July 30th which means that she started VPK not long after she turned 4.   I thought back then that maybe it would be in her best interest to retain her, but her teacher told me not to worry because she would catch up.  When she was in Kindergarten, I noticed that she was having a hard time but again listened to her teacher.  .  Her 1st/2nd grade cluster teachers were really sweet & told me not to pressure Erin.  I didn't.  And each year, right after Winter Break, Erin did catch up

This year, 3rd grade, I have been having conferences with her teachers consistently.  We all agree that Erin is all over the place.  She can come home with A's & B's as easily as she comes home with D's & F's.  Her comprehension & retention don't seem to be catching up this year.  It breaks my heart each time she gets in my car at pickup & tells me "I tried my hardest but all I got was a ---.  I'm sorry mama."

FCAT time was awful.  Absolutely awful.  Each day she would tell me that the test was hard but that she really tried her best.  Not long after this, her teachers were showing some movies in class.  One day she came home so happy to have seen The S*und of Mus!c that she was singing all the songs.  Another day she came  home & told me that she saw a movie again.  This time when I asked her about the movie, she didn't remember anything - the name of the movie, who was in it - not even what it was about.  I was heartbroken.

The key thing here is that Erin's teachers are amazing.  They are totally on board with David & me.  I love that we are working as a team.  They are open to any & all questions & have given me some good advice.  Her homeroom teacher Mrs. W. who is also her reading teacher has been very open with me about her own experiences with her son.  Now how often have you known a teacher to be downright human!?  She has told me that if Erin is retained, it won't be the end of the world for either Erin or us because in the end, Erin will do what Erin will do.  She is all for doing the right thing & not passing her to the next grade just because that is what is expected.  All 3 teachers (Mrs. W., Mrs. C. & Mrs. C) want me to wait until the SAT test scores are in before we make any decisions.

Another area of concern is Erin's vision.  The last time she saw an eye doctor was 2 years ago.  David took her to a very highly recommended pediatric opthomologist.  This doctor was thrilled that Erin had no issues.  Then again, he is a specialist so he sees children who have problems.  At last year's annual doctor appt, Erin's eyes were only "ok."  David is worried that Erin is dyslexic because she writes the wrong letter &/or number sometimes.  It is very common for children to confuse 6/9, b/d, m/n along with some other mistakes.  This is a developmental issue.  However, David thinks there is a real problem.


Next Saturday we have an appointment for Erin to see our eye doctor.  Thankfully, Erin knows this doctor & likes him.  Of course, I'm not sure how much she's going to like him when he goes to dilate her eyes.  I know I don't like him very much when he does that to me.  We plan on asking him to see if he can find any problems which need further exploration.  If she does need glasses, I'm thankful that Erin has friends who wear glasses - not just the adults in her life.  For now she thinks they're cool.  Then again, there are so many styles from which to choose these days.

We've also decided that we are going to ask to have Erin retained in 3rd grade.  It's been so hard on her this year.  Yes.  We discussed it with Erin.  We talked about the people she knows who have repeated a grade & asked if she thought poorly of these people.  Being who she is, she said no & looked as if she wanted to make sure we hadn't lost our minds.  We told her, quite honestly, that  we believe she had a very rough time in school this year & want her to have the chance to do her absolute best before going on to 4th grade which would be even harder.  We emphasized that she had done nothing wrong but that this would be a good opportunity for her to strengthen her skills.  Imagine our shock when Erin told us she thought this was a good idea! She isn't upset in the least.  Maybe that is because somewhere, deep down, she knows she isn't ready to move on.

This coming Monday I will be calling Erin's school.  I am going to set up a conference to discuss having her retained in the 3rd grade.  I want to insure that she is retained but still has the same teachers.  They have been utterly phenomenal to work with.  I also want to speak with the ESE specialist.  David & I want to get Erin tested for learning disabilities. 

It's time.  Maybe there is nothing wrong.  But what if there is something wrong?  Good G-d.  Have I allowed her to go for so long without being aware?  Have I really been so pigheaded that I've put her in harm's way?

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mothers Day

Each year at Erin's school, the children have the opportunity to buy & decorate a cake from Publ!x. She really enjoys the whole process of decorating a cake & giving it to me. And I enjoy her joy!

After picking Erin up from school, I needed to run over to W*lmart for a few things. I asked if she wanted to tag along since I knew I'd be quick. (Of course she always forgets that to me "quick" means an hour.) While we were there, Erin decided she wanted to buy me flowers. She was so upset when she realized she didn't have any cash with her. I told her not to worry about the money, she should just pick out what she wanted. It was so darn cute watching her pick out flowers. I loved watching her decide which flowers she wanted to buy me. Turns out she picked my fave roses - yellow.

David wanted to know what I wanted for Mothers' Day. Being the simplistic person I am, I told him that I didn't want anything other than to laze around once I got home from Hebrew school.

And that is exactly what I've been doing!