Friday, February 21, 2014

My Little Smarty Pants!

So I had Dakota’s yearly IEP meeting at the school yesterday. For those of you who don’t have a kid with a special need. IEP is just short for Individualized Education Plan. Any child that is behind in any area…whether cognitive, speech, physical, etc. that meets requirements will have an IEP. It is basically just a plan that you set up with individual goals for your child that those that work with him work on throughout the year.

Well, once a year you meet with ALL of the individuals that work on these goals to talk about how they are doing with the goals and what needs to change. For Dakota he has A LOT of goals and A LOT of people that work with him because he has needs in all areas…physical, fine motor, vision, speech/communication, and cognitive. So the room was filled with about 8 people all there to report on how Dakota is doing this year reaching these goals.

I usually go in expecting not to hear anything that is a big surprise since I see improvements in him too and know about where he is at…BUT this meeting was SOOOO amazing and I wanted to cry as I got to hear each of these people talk about how AMAZING Dakota is doing this year and how smart he is.

Each one of them from the second we started just said that Dakota understands EVERYTHING!! He is so mentally there and with it. This of course makes my day because I believe this with all of my heart but it is hard to describe to other people why I think he does understand when they see a little boy that can’t talk or communicate. To know that they see that in him too and that they treat him like he understands means the world to me!!!
The speech person said at literacy time when they read books a lot of the books have subtle humor in them that the other kids in the class don’t get but Dakota gets it and always laughs! I LOVED that because he does have such a fun sense of humor!

His teacher said he knows all of his shapes and colors. I was SO impressed by this!! She knows this because they have him look at a couple shapes and then tell him to look at a certain one and he almost always gets it right. Now she wants to move on to teach him the alphabet…especially the letters in his name.
As she said this the speech therapist that works with him said “Yes…we want him to learn his letters because I really believe that as he gets older he will be able to use communication devices that allow him to spell out words so that he can communicate with you in messages!”
My little heart skipped a beat to hear that she believes in Dakota and that he will be able to do amazing things like this one day!!!

The physical therapist and occupational therapist all commented on how much stronger Dakota is and how much they see him bringing everything together…body, eye tracking, verbalizing, responding, etc.

But the best part of the whole meeting was hearing each one of them say how much they love Dakota and how happy he makes them! That is the greatest compliment of all!!!

I left that meeting with the BIGGEST smile on my face and the HAPPIEST heart ever!! I’m not the only one who is seeing the progress! It was so great to be in a room filled with so many people who love my little boy and are wanting to help him just as much as I do!!

I was SO proud of Dakota!! He will never be on the honor roll or win a trophy for MVP on a sports team BUT his victories are even more amazing to me then that because I know how hard they are for him! They take a lot of work and a lot of time and they are still small and simple but they are AMAZING!!!!


Monday, February 17, 2014

BEST Valentines Present EVER!!!!

Happy late Valentines to all you lovebirds out there! ;) So Zach and I aren’t usually very big on Valentines' Day. Mostly because our anniversary is January 26th and then my birthday is February 8th (more to come on my big dirty thirty later). So by the time Valentines rolls around we are all out of money and I already feel like I have been spoiled enough. I’m not big into flowers either. Don’t get me wrong…a surprise bouquet of flowers is always so thoughtful and sweet but to get them on the typical Valentines Day, etc. just doesn’t seem quite as thoughtful. I would much rather him spend the money to take me out or buy me something that will last longer then flowers. Zach knows this so he never gets me flowers but yet he always feels guilty for not. ;)

So somewhere along the way…a few weeks prior to Valentines Day…Zach claims we were watching some sappy show like the Bachelor together and I told him I all I wanted was for him to write me a poem for Valentines Day. Now I must have been totally joking or just talking cuz I don’t remember that at all. It could have something to do with this pregnancy brain but I honestly don’t ever remember a conversation happening like that. I do have the worst memory on the planet…which is why I love my blog so much because it helps me remember all the important things! ;)

So when Valentines Day came around Zach came in with this cutest little grin on his face and his hands behind his back and asked me, “what was the one thing you wanted for Valentines Day?” I had NO idea!! I didn’t even know what I wanted for Valentines Day!

He was soooo disappointed I didn’t remember telling him a poem…especially since he had spent 3 weeks racking his brain to write ME my VERY OWN poem! He gave it to me and of course I was TOTALLY shocked and surprised! I could only imagine what funny and cheesy things he had come up with. Zach is more of a funny guy then a romantic sappy kind of guy!

As I started to read it…I realized there was nothing cheesy about it. Zach had somehow turned our whole 7 years into the most beautifully written poem that I have EVER seen!! My eyes were quickly filled with tears and I couldn’t believe how thoughtful, romantic, and meaningful this beautiful poem was!! I was kinda glad I didn’t remember telling him I wanted a poem because it was the best surprise and gift I have truly EVER received!! It will be something I will cherish, read, and hold onto forever!!!

He didn’t want me to share it but I talked him into it since it is such a neat reflection of our crazy 7 years…what we have been through…and how we have made it together!! I know I never could have written anything like this. So here it is!! (No one better dare make fun of him or give him a hard time!! ;))

When i first met you in good old Brookings,
holy crap were you good looking
The most beautiful girl I'd seen in my life,
that's when I knew I would take you to wife,
We quickly married and a boy on the way,
life seemed so perfect, wouldn't you say?
Right when things were going their best,
it seemed right then, we started our test,
I lost my sight, which I knew I would miss,
how could I provide and go on like this?
Without hesitation, without looking back
you quickly jumped in and picked up the slack,
Hauling trailers by day, reading me schoolwork at night,
You're the reason I made it, all without sight.
Far from adjusted, and far from joy,
we then somehow lost our sweet little boy
too much to imagine, let alone bare,
I lost hope for a while, but again you were there,
Making meds by the dozens, new life without rest,
I know he knew then that his mom was the best
you never gave up, and you never gave in,
rather kept on the path and showed me again,
No matter what happens today or tomorrow,
life can be lived without living in sorrow
Patient, persistent, you keep moving on,
I'm glad you'll be with me even after we're gone
I don't understand and I often ask why
I keep chasing my dreams, and from you not a sigh,
From Seymour to Shark Tank and Hardware show,
You make me keep going despite all the NO's!
It's been quite a journey going for my HOME RUN,
but worst case you know, we've had so much fun!
We've come a long ways and Dakota has to,
Soon we'll have Navy, then what will we do?
Not sure how we'll do it with our new Kota man,
All I know that's for sure, is that with YOU we CAN!
Perfect mom, perfect wife, Heavenly Father did send,
I'm so lucky to have you, my eternal best friend!
As you can see I have plenty to say,
why I'm grateful for you on this Valentines Day!

Sure love this guy SOOOO much and couldn’t ask for a better Valentine then him!! He is a keeper!!
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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Life is “HAPPY”

It has been awhile since I wrote just about Dakota man…it is definitely overdue. The best words to describe Dakota and our little life right now is “happy!”
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This new pillow I got for his new big boy room says it perfectly! ;)

I always have the hardest time describing how Dakota is progressing to people because it is tiny and subtle. Probably those who only see him every once in awhile would never even notice any difference at all but for us in our home…we are seeing progress…and that makes us ALL happy!!!

The biggest change is still just subtle progress in his responsiveness, reactions, and communication. He is SO alert and expressive to EVERYTHING around him. He lets you know very easily and quickly these days if he his liking what is going on or not. He whines and cries when he is not liking something or wanting you to do something for him. You can ask him a question while he is whining and most of the time he will stop and look at you or smile if that is what he wants or he will keep whining until you get it right…sometimes you never get it! ;)

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For example…the other night he started crying in bed. I went in and tried to roll him back to the side he had been on (since he had rolled onto his back and it is hard for him to roll in his bed since it is tilted). As soon as I did he started whining so I said “oh you don’t want to lay on that side?” He stopped whining. I rolled him onto the other side and he just gave me the hugest smile ever, like saying, “YES!! Thank you mom!!” This is just one example of the many that are happening more and more often which makes life so much more easier for him and us!!

But honestly his mood is just SO happy and full of life lately and that has made the BIGGEST difference in our little home. I remember after his accident just praying that we would see some of his personality come back in him since there was really nothing there as far as personality for a long time. My prayers have sure been answered! This kid has personality…it is not maybe the exact same personality he had before his accident although I still see some of that same little boy inside…but it is personality and it is there and it is fun!!! He is really just so fun again in a new and different way but we sure love it!!

Even a year after his accident he would smile but not at anything we did. We could be funnier then funny and try and get him to smile and laugh at us but we got nothing. The only thing that could get him to smile was watching Toy Story. This was how we had to take our family pictures to get any smiles.

The whole photo shoot my friend Chelsea was holding this DVD player and the camera to catch him at the parts he would smile.

These days we don't need Toy Story to get a smile out of him. They come so easily and naturally now and that has been one of the hugest blessings to our family!!

Here is a short little video of him just having fun with his cousin Houston.

His sweet spirit and smiles fills our home with complete happiness. It is a happiness that is not just superficial…it is pure joy!! When he is in a happy and playful mood, Zach and I always just stop what we are doing and enjoy it together. I'm sure that if someone was constantly watching us they would think we are a little overly obsessive about our child...but that's ok with me! ;) I guess we are! I love that the trials we have been through have created within us a deeper appreciation for these simple things in life like a smile, that we once took for granted.

With Zach’s new job he doesn't leave so early in the morning, so many mornings Dakota is awake before he leaves and we have time to talk, smile, and pray together before he leaves and it is so simple but yet so wonderful.

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Zach sharing some pears with Dakota before work!!

The other morning Zach said to me, “I am just so happy! Even though life and work are still stressful and we don’t know what the heck we are doing (and Zach is a really stressful person that has a hard time not focusing on problems) just spending these morning together with you and Dakota just makes me so happy!” This made my heart just skip a beat because that is what it is all about!! In the scriptures in 2 Nephi 2:25 it says, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” For a long time we were missing out on that joy as we grieved and mourned the loss of the Dakota man we once had and struggled with this new change.

I remember as clear as day one night, sitting  in bed one night crying (one of many nights) and struggling after Dakota’s accident after months and months of REALLY hard days and nights. I remember wishing SO badly that I could just fast forward life like 10 years! I wanted to feel happiness again and I had a hope that I would…I just couldn’t see how or when that would be. I didn’t get to fast forward life…I had to struggle, learn, and grow every day since but that happiness is back and it is even more “happy” then I have ever felt before!! So to sit here at this computer today and speak of our home being being filled with SO much HAPPINESS, it is truly AMAZING to me!! I honestly thank my Heavenly Father EVERY day for it!!!

Along with all of these most important changes and progress we are seeing, Dakota is getting stronger too! He holds his head and body a lot stronger. He is still progressing at his crawling in therapy although he can’t do it on his own. He LOVES getting the chance to army crawl on his slide to his favorite Lemon Italian Ice. When he gets to the end he just smiles so big and is so proud of himself! I love it! He still stiffens up his entire body a lot…probably more then before. This makes it super hard to hold him because he is so strong and big that it takes all you got to keep him from falling out of your arms. He does it a lot when he is excited or mad. The therapists say that he has learned that that movement has helped him in his rolling and other things so that is why he does it more often. This is also what makes crawling on his own hard for him because he is really good and pushing but getting his leg back up in position is another story.

He is moving his arms a little more coordinated. He will bring his arms and hands up to his toothbrush as you brush his teeth and things like that. I would LOVE to see him be able to use his hands to grab things. I think that would make life a lot more enjoyable for him and he would be more capable of doing so much more.

As far as his trach goes, he is still needing suctioning at least 3-4 times a day so we aren't really making much progress towards getting that out. He coughs really strong and good but still doesn’t seem to clear our his airway all the way. He has actually started to really enjoy getting suctioned and will smile many times when you ask him if he wants one and when you are doing it because I’m sure it makes him feel so much better to breathe better. Not sure if that is a good thing though since we want him to not need suctioning. But we are okay with the trach. When he first got it is was such a new and weird thing for us. It was a foreign object coming out of our little boys neck. It looked weird, sounded weird, and was scary! Now that we are used to it, it has become a part of him and we no longer feel this sense of urgency to get it out. Of course if he does get it out one day we would be so happy, more for the fact that it means he has progressed but if he never does it will be ok too!! It is his cute little “necklace” as some people call it! ;)

About a month or so ago he got his first loose tooth!! It was kinda my fault though so not sure if that really counts as a first! I was flossing his little teeth with one of those floss picks and he all the sudden bit down on it and it cut his gum right next to he bottom middle tooth pretty bad. I felt SOOOOO bad as he cried and blood was pouring out! I was just trying to be a good mom and get his teeth cleaned!!!
After that his tooth was super sensitive and he didn’t want anything to do with tastes. The times we could get him to try some baby food he would bite down on the spoon and it would make his gum bleed and he would cry. One day at church he bit on a succor and his tooth just got really loose. From there on out it was getting looser and looser. When we took him to the dentist for his cleaning the bottom middle two were both loose so the dentist decided to pull them.
I was so scared and sad for him but he didn’t even make a peep!! He was MUCH braver then me!!!
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Getting ready!!

When the dentist got done he said, “well I got 3.” I was a little confused on why the 3rd had to come but well it was already gone so what the heck! Dakota just has a huge gap now in the bottom which you don’t see unless you pull his lip down. It sure makes him seem like such a big boy though!!
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All gone!!

He got his first visit from the tooth fairy and got 3 whole dollars!!!
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Holding his treasure box with his teeth in it, getting ready to take it to his bed! ;)

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Morning time! Looks super excited! ;) Not sure that he really cared about the money but I think he was glad to have that sensitive tooth out of his mouth!

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Hooray they are gone!!!

He is still LOVING school and all of his cute friends!
I mean seriously who wouldn’t love school when you get to swing in a hammock swing and ride scooters down the hallway! Sign me up! ;)

He loves the bus rides and can be crying all the way to the bus and as soon as he gets on he is just fine. He loves to look out the window. He seriously has the cutest bus drivers in the whole world. I love them to pieces!! I will be so sad when this school year ends and he moves to a new school and maybe with new bus drivers! :(

I think that about sums Dakota man up for awhile. If I ever leave anything out that you would like to know please leave me a question in the comments and I will be happy to answer!