Saturday, June 28, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014


This morning we reached our goal for Hanna's SMART brailler. 
I still can't believe it. I am completely floored, and overwhelmed, and humbled, and inspired...
 that so many people reached out and were so kind and generous in helping us to get this amazing piece of technology for Hanna.
Some of these people were family and friends, and some were friends of friends, friends of family, and some complete strangers.
It's absolutely incredible. 
I can't repay everyone, but I can pay it forward, and that's exactly what I intend to do.
I can't thank everyone enough.
I have no words. 
It took 3 days.
Social media really is a crazy thing! 
Since everything moved so fast with the fundraiser, I thought I'd move fast with the purchase.
The sooner she gets her hands on it, the sooner we can get her learning on it! 
I bought it tonight. 
Now we just wait for the delivery. 
We cannot be more excited!! 


storybook gardens

 Since it was the last week before school was over, Michelle and I decided to take off for the day with our littles and take advantage of the quietness of a fun little attraction. My mom also came to add to the fun.
My mom and dad took us as children, so it's neat to go back with our own kids. 
Of course, just because we thought we were going at a good time, the place was filled with kids enjoying their year end field trip.  
Oh well. Can't win 'em all.
 Ben thought he was pretty smart with the big jug. He wanted nothing to do with his own cup after he got hold of Michelle's.
Of course we needed a froggy photo op, and then we let everyone play at the pirate ships. No photos here. It's a mental breakdown waiting to happen at these playgrounds. There were so many kids, and as soon as one kid reached the top, they'd disappear behind the wooden walls. It was insane. I was more than happy to retire from the playgrounds and set up for our picnic.
 After we finished eating, we made it to the splash pad, and we were lucky because by this time, the school buses were all packed up and gone. We basically had the pad to ourselves!
 Hailey and Hanna are big water sissies. Hanna stayed snuggled up with my mom the entire time, and Hailey found entertainment in other ways...

 After drying everyone off, we walked through the section with all of the miniature houses and buildings, and the kids got a real kick out of them...

 ...while my mom helped a very tired little man get comfortable for his sleep.
 Before we left, my mom treated everyone to one ride, and they all chose the elephants.

 We needed at least one group photo...
 and of course we had to hit up the Tweedledee and Tweedledum stand-in. 
I was more than ready to venture back home after our day, but Michelle and my mom went to the children's museum on the way home. 
Nope. Not me. 
I enjoyed a nice quiet ride home with my iced coffee and sleeping kiddos in the back seat. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

braille update

It's time for another quick update here, so today's the day. 
She had her teacher come to the house yesterday, as she does about every two weeks. Although the instruction is quite spaced out Hanna catches on and remembers everything!
Maryse was so thrilled with Hanna's attention and work she did yesterday, that they went all the way up to the braille letter "i". First Maryse would make the letter and then Hanna would do the same. She went from A to I being shown once, without any additional prompts. They use something similar to this, except their's is white and blue for higher contrast:
  As Maryse was leaving, she also said that she is very excited how well Hanna's doing. She also thinks that Hanna can see probably the same amount as she can, but more colours. Maryse has become accustomed to using braille, and doesn't use her vision as much as she would without all of the aids and products (talking clocks, calendars, etc). In Hanna's case, she uses her vision more than anything else. This is why some people can't even tell that she is visually impaired. This is great, but we're trying to get her more used to using and relying more on her touch so that she doesn't get visually fatigued as often, and as fast. I actually have to tell her not to look at the braille lines in the book as she touches them.
This makes sense why Maryse doesn't use her vision as often as she could. I'm sure she would get fatigued pretty fast as well.

So, braille is going better than I thought it would. We had a rough patch for a while because Hanna had a bad attitude about Maryse coming. I think she was getting bored, honestly. Now they're doing some fun things, and Maryse really shows and praises Hanna when she gets things right, or is on the right track, and I think it's making a huge difference. 
I'm pretty excited about it. 
Also, the fund we started for the SMART brailler, is already half way to the goal!!! I am completely floored with the generous response we're getting. 
I couldn't be more grateful.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

fluff ball fun

The kids are finally allowed to start handling the kittens. They're trying to climb out of the box now, so I took that as a sign of them being ready to explore.
They are so cute. 
I was hoping we'd have families lining up at the door hoping to bring home one of these little guys, but that was an unrealistic wish. 
Quite honestly, they will be a fun addition. All four of them - including Lucy will be living outside. We will get them all fixed so we don't end up being that house responsible for the local uncontrolled feline problems. 
Right now though, we will keep them inside. As long as they're staying semi-contained, which won't last too much longer, I'm sure.  
The girls are great with the little fur balls, but Ben is a different story. He's becoming quite the little rough, destructive monster. Matt's described him as the "claw crane" with the kittens. Basically picking them up from the box by the head, and swinging his arm around and dropping them out. Poor little things! He'll be good once we work on him a bit, but for now, the kittens are basically quarantined from him. :)

More cute fluffy pictures coming soon!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

the benefits of being tiny

SMART brailler

I recently read about the SMART brailler. It's just like the old school, heavy brailler, but now features a screen with audio feedback that shows and speaks the letters. 
Crazy right?! 
Here's a link with a video and everything you need to know about this amazing new product.
Right now the SMART brailler is 20% off until June 25th. 
I am trying to get my hands on one of these for Hanna before the sale is over. 
I also found out that I can put together a fundraiser page to help us come up with the money to purchase one. 

Normally, I wouldn't dare to ask anyone for a cent, but this is important. This is Hanna's education, and it will be a huge benefit for her to have one of these. As I stated in this post, Hanna's got her work cut out for her learning both print and braille. This brailler will help tremendously, using both at once. It's amazing. 

Please visit my fundraiser page here, and share it for me.
This kid deserves any help she can get.
 She's an amazing little girl who is going to do great things one day. If we can help her in the process, we're going to! 
Wish us luck, and please share the page!
Here it is one more time.
Thank you so much! 

Friday, June 13, 2014

days of summer

 The kids are loving summer break so far. We've been done school now for a couple weeks, and I couldn't be happier to take a break! The weather's been perfect with high 70's and low 80's with a nice breeze. Not too hot, and not too chilly. Perfect for playing in the water for a little cool-down. 
Well, if you're Gracie or Ben that is. 
Hanna and Hailey couldn't care less about water unless it's 90 degrees.
 Gracie gets over to mom and dad's as often as she can to swim whenever Kristyn's there with her kids. I'm so glad she loves swimming so much. 
Ben loves water. He hasn't been in the pool yet, because I haven't braved the water temperature just yet myself. I'm sure he'll love it though!
 I'm sure we'll get Hanna and Hailey in there too once I start going in with them. 
For now though, I'm trying to get them brave enough to use the sprinklers or hose. 
  We've been eating picnic lunches outside as often as we can, and Matt and I are getting a lot done in the yard. See that brown grass in the above picture under Ben? There was a 30 foot pine tree there in the winter! We moved the tree, and laid the sod. You'd never know it. 
We're cleaning up a lot of landscaping around here, and Matt totally rebuilt the shed.  
 We're waiting for word from a friend to tell us when their ducklings hatch, so we can make them our newest pets, and we're having a blast with the kittens. There's a lot going on around here.
There's never a dull moment!
 Everyone's doing well.
Hanna can pump a swing higher than my head totally on her own, and Gracie's been teaching herself some gymnastics. 
I can't keep my eyes off Hailey, and she recently got in trouble for drawing on the van with a sharpie. (Matt is totally to blame for that one!)
 Ben is Ben. A happy guy. Growing like a weed!
These days are the best days. I'm enjoying every second of them!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


 I'm sure I have a series of photos for each of my girls making their first big spaghetti mess.
 Of course Ben had to have his own as well!
 He likes using utensils and is getting better every day with them. He is now eating almost his entire yogurt on his own!
 This is one of those times when I enjoy the mess. It's totally worth it. Taking him directly from his chair to the tub, with noodles dropping the entire way there, is only part of what I'll remember about his first independent, really messy spaghetti meal. 
 I'll also remember how the girls laughed hysterically as he yelled after every bite because he knew he had an audience.
 And how his chubby fingers kept slipping off of the noodles almost getting him too frustrated to keep trying.

Mostly though, I'll remember how much fun he had, and how his sisters were more interested in watching and laughing at him than eating their own meals.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

all done! (or "ga ga!" in baby)

So...believe it or not, I just figured out how to add a video to this darn blog. 
I've tried and tried...and managed to get a couple posted from my old camera ages ago, when Hanna was just a baby. 
Since my camera changed, so did the file type, and uploading was impossible. 
For me, anyway.
Just now I realized how simple it is to change the file type. 
Ha. Ha. 
Here's my Benny, and all his cuteness. 
You know, just to prove that I know how to post videos. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hanna's vision assessment

Hanna, my mom and I recently met up with Lana, an Educational Resource Consultant (Specialist Teacher of the Blind). It was a vision assessment that would be used to provide us with programming recommendations that would be appropriate for Hanna's vision impairment. 
Today I received the report in the mail, and I figured I would include some key notes in this post that I found helpful in choosing how to go about schooling this coming fall. 

Hanna has some residual vision which she is currently utilizing quite efficiently for independent travel and for learning skills such as identification of shapes, colours, and enlarged letters and numbers. Hanna utilizes an extremely close focal distance to view printed materials. Although Hanna has some functional vision for reading very large print sizes, viewing for her is an onerous task, requiring a very reduced focal length and increased time to process the visual information. A close focal distance is a contributing factor to vision fatigue which could affect Hanna's visual functioning and adversely affect her ability to read print fluently at a comfortable focal length. It is, therefore, the opinion of this assessor, that while Hanna should be encouraged to use her vision as much as possible for the development of concepts, independent travel, and for skills for daily living, that she should also be considered as a potential braille user and as such, her programming should be planned accordingly. 
However, before formal braille instruction can begin, it is necessary to do a lot of foundation work in the areas of concept development, tactile and fine motor development, and the development of literacy skills including phonological awareness. Following are some programming recommendations for Hanna to be implemented by her family in the home school setting, in preparation for future introduction to formal braille instruction. 

1. Concept Development
Important for the development of Hanna's communication, literacy, and motor skills. Accurate and useful concepts about how her environment works and the objects in it, are an essential part of all these skills and will be part of all the activities used to develop them. 
Provide a multi-sensory program for Hanna. Work for breif sessions but repeat frequently. Use real items whenever possible. 
*Here she gave some activity suggestions.*

2. Gross Motor Development
To foster good fine motor development and finger sensitivity, a child with a visual impairment who is a potential braille reader needs to develop his/her upper body strength.
*Activity suggestions*

3. Fine Motor Skill Development
These should be designed to help Hanna gain the ability to perceive likenesses and differences through touch which is the foundataion for braille reading. Activities should encourage grasping, squeezing, and releasing onjects; opening and closing fists; and wiggling thumbs and fingers. Encourage the use of the pincer grasp. Always encourage Hanna to use both hands while performing tasks. 
*Activity suggestions*

4. Hanna's language skills continue to progress and develop which is due in large part to the daily exposure she has to literature and interacting with her large family and extended group of friends. Continue to encourage Hanna's ability to listen to stories, recall and recount details, and discuss new concepts and vocabulary. Auditory skills will be an important skill for Hanna to develop along with her tactual skills. Hanna may need some additional prompting such as feeling the position of the tongue and lips as certain sounds are modelled to her to assist her with enunciation as she may be missing some visual imformation. 

5. Although the eventual goal is for Hanna to read braille, the present objective is to expose her to braille in a similar way that children with sight are exposed to print. Fully sighted children see symbol and print continually in their environment. Continue using materials such as tactile books to stimulate Hanna's tactual interest along with print books with a simple braille line or braille words. In addition, draw Hanna's attention to braille labels in her environment such as on a public washroom, or in an elevator. 
It is also appropriate at this time for Hanna to be introduced to the braille writer.

6. Development of Literacy Skills
The concepts that Hanna has already developed and will continue to develop about print using her residual vision will be able to be applied to learning the braille code when it is more formally introduced in the future. It is equally important for Hanna to develop her auditory concepts of literacy as these can be applied to both print and braille. Hanna will likely only be able to tolerate short periods of visual work before she may begin to demonstrate signs of vision fatigue (restlessness, avoidance of task, eye rubbing or watering, irritability, etc.) These signs indicate that she needs a vision break and that it would be more appropriate to try a tactual or auditory task. It may be appropriate to do visual work in the morning and then switch to tactile work in the afternoon or even earlier in the day depending on when Hanna is demonstrating signs of visual fatigue. 

7. An important goal in kindergarten is for students to learn to recognize and to print their name. This is a skill that Hanna has been working on with some success, but it has been challenging for her to coordinate her vision with her fine motor skills. 
*She gave suggestions here to help*

The following was observed during this resource visit. Hanna('s):
  • nystagmus was evident
  • was physically petite with tiny hands and delicate long fingers
  • showed some interest in completing a variety of visual tasks presented to her, including puzzles, for a short period of time.
  •  vision fatigue was demonstrated after a short period of visual work.
  • demonstrated consistent colour and shape recognition.
  • completed a four shape puzzle with no visual difficulty using a 10 cm focal distance. 
  • was not able to discriminate details in a book with cluttered pictures using a close 5-10 cm focal distance.
  • was able to discriminate some details in a book with pictures that were larger and less visually cluttered and was able to maintain better visual focus. Hanna sat on her mom's lap and was attentive and engaged in the story. She willingly participated in lifting the pop ups on each page using a close 5-10 cm focal distance. 
  • used her index fingers on her right and left hands to depress keys on brailler. Hanna was able to produce a few braille cells. However, she appeared to tire quickly and was not able to fully depress the keys for the entire line.
  • willingly felt the braille cells she produced when provided with hand-over-hand assistance.
  • demonstrated good receptive language skills.
  • used expressive language that was sometimes difficult to understand.
Lana also provided us with some links and other resources and additional reading material to give some ideas and activities to help Hanna reach her full potential. 

It was a neat meeting, but most of the information we already knew. I know Hanna fatigues easily and I'm always working on concept development. Many of the activities listed are part of her everyday already. 
I did find it a relief though, to here from a "Specialist Teacher of the Blind" to definitely not expect Hanna to be at the same level that Gracie was at at her age. Not that I'm expecting her to be, but it's frustrating some days looking back at how much faster Gracie caught onto things. It was nice to hear that that is completely normal.
She also assured me that Hanna will be tricky to teach because she's not only learning literacy through print like Gracie did, but also through tactual work and audio. It's a lot more work for her because she's going to be doing all of it. Not one or the other, which makes a whole lot of sense. If she was strictly a braille user, things would be much easier; but this is a time when we count our blessings, because she has vision that she can use for print, and we are so very thankful for that. 

So that's that. One more assessment done, and a little bit more information to take in. 

We stay busy around here, that's for sure. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

hailey's birthday number 2

We celebrated Hailey's birthday a little bit early with Matt's side, and a little bit late on my side. I didn't mind, because the longer her birthday was spread out, the longer my baby stayed 2.

 We were able to have the party outside so it was nice and the kids kept busy and I think had lots of fun. 

Now, Hailey is officially 3 years old. 
Happy birthday, crazy baby girl.