The beginning of 2019 was hard for my kids and finding gratitude was elusive. Things have turned around so dramatically that I am happy to share three huge brags about my kiddos. 1) Anna has officially graduated from high school! 2) Dominic has officially achieved his Eagle Scout rank! 3) Jenny is just four months away from graduating with her Master’s Degree! All three will have formal ceremonies and celebrations in the spring but I just had to share the big news now.
Anna is Done with High School!
Posing in front of the Canyon Lake High School banner on her last day of school ever! In looking at graduation credit requirements this past spring, she only needed 4 classes to graduate so this fall she had a shortened school day. We surprised Anna at her transition ARD the week before Christmas break with the news that she was all done with high school and that Friday, December 20th, would be her last day ever at Canyon Lake. She was so happy! Things for my sweet Booski were so very hard for the majority of her junior year that I wasn’t sure she would even graduate. We explored many options for her with the school district and her psychiatrist but nothing was working… until we got her on the right meds. Looking back it breaks my heart that her behavior was truly a chemical imbalance. She was so down on herself that she talked about not wanting to live. But now she is happy, stable, and independent. She’s been doing so well that she gets to start full-time at Life Bridges next week. Life Bridges is a post-high school 4-year transition program for young adults with disabilities to help them find independence in their communities using life skills and vocational skills.
Reading Her Congrats Card
Anna’s teachers, aides, administration, and classmates all turned out for her goodbye/Christmas party. Here she is reading her congrats card and feeling very proud of herself. Nana, Daddy, and I were able to attend too. We were missing Mrs. Smith, Anna’s main teacher, who was home with her newborn baby girl. Congrats to Mrs. Smith as well!
Posing with her Class
One last photo with her class. Last year, Anna was in a room by herself and rarely integrated into her special ed classroom. This year, she didn’t visit that room even one time. She managed to stay with her friends and in her classes appropriately all semester.
Ms April and Anna
Ms. April is a gem, one of the paraprofessionals that has been by Anna’s side since day one at Canyon Lake High School. Anna wasn’t sure of her at first which made me wary. But April understood Anna… gave her space when she needed it, was by her side when she needed it too, and totally got her sense of humor. We super puffy heart April!
Mrs Bohn and Anna
Mrs. Bohn was Anna’s government teacher this fall and never knew the trials and tribulations Anna went these last few years. Mrs. Bohn had only had wonderful things to say about Anna which makes our hearts extra proud and grateful.
Anna and Ms Betty
Ms. Betty joined the CLHS staff last fall after two other paras started and left. There was so much turnover last year that it made things even harder for Anna to manage. Betty loves our daughter and has been a great 1-1 for her. The admin team made a smart decision to have all of the paras rotate so Anna wouldn’t get too dependent, but Ms. Betty and Anna have a special bond. We were all surprised and thrilled to learn that Betty will be joining Anna at Life Bridges full-time as her 1-1 to help her transition to the new program. Here Ms. Betty is sharing the exciting news with Anna!
When you’ve gone through a really difficult spot and then things get better, you have an extra big space in your life for gratitude. When we left Canyon Lake, it was with a full heart and so much gratitude for the staff that helped our daughter achieve success. So much gratitude for the medication that helped Anna find her center again. So much gratitude that Anna feels good about herself and is excited about her future. So much gratitude. <3
Completed Eagle Scout Project
Dominic completed his Eagle Scout project, a new Little Free Library for our neighborhood! He had been working on his Eagle Scout project since the spring, rebuilding the River Chase Little Free Library which had been damaged and was falling apart. These photos were taken when the Dedication ceremony took place in October but had to present his completed Project Workbook to his Troopmaster then to the Eagle Scout Review Board. On December 19th, Dominic met with the Eagle Scout Review Board and as a result of that meeting, he was officially awarded the rank of Eagle Scout!!! His project has been sent to DC for final approval and sign-off but it is official… our son is an Eagle Scout now.
Dominic and Curtis
Dominic had the support of his dad, Curtis, his grandfather, Curt, and his Boy Scout Troop 382, especially Tristan Lane who helped him with the final installation. Curtis has been an incredible father, gently encouraging a sometimes reluctant Dominic to complete the project, as well as encouraging him to go on another campout when fatigue could’ve overcome desire, to finish another merit badge, to volunteer for another community service event, to attend another Merit Badge University, to teach and coach and lead by example for our son and the other boys in the troop… I am so incredibly proud of both of my guys. How lucky are my kids to have such a great dad?!? Grandpa Curt has also played in integral role in helping Dominic by attending several summer campouts and making several trips down here to help with the actual building of the library.
River Chase’s Little Free Library
The completed project stocked up with books donated by our generous neighbors in River Chase. I am so proud of our son.
Made Possible by Kim
When one of our neighbor’s, Kim, found out that our previous neighborhood’s Little Library was falling apart, she was keen to play a part in replacing it. Her son, Brent, was an Eagle Scout and an avid reader. Sadly, he is no longer with us. She wanted to honor his memory by sponsoring Dominic’s project. It was an honor to do this for her, her family, and especially Brent. He sounds like he was an incredible young man and his loss is deeply felt.
In Memory of Brent Johnson
In memory of Brent Johnson, gone from us too soon. Within these books, may our neighborhood children find the inspiration to lead a life like Brent’s: committed to excellence in academics, athletics, love, and steadfastness toward family and community.
One more brag about Dominic that is pretty huge… he is managing his ADHD so well now and is doing so well at MECHS that he was dismissed from special ed services at his last ARD in December. Dominic no longer needs any interventions or accommodations to manage his behavior, emotions, or academics at school! From needing a 504 Plan, an IEP, a Behavior Intervention Plan, and suicide safety plan to having him be dismissed from all services is a huge accomplishment. I am so grateful to the administration at MECHS, to his behavior support team (especially Megan Ramos in middle school!!!), to his teachers who just get him, and to his core group of friends and family who love him unconditionally. Thank you all for supporting him.
Me and My Angel
I don’t have very many photos of my sweet Jenny in 2019 and I’m hoping to change that in 2020. Jenny went through a couple of major life transitions this year; her divorce is now finalized and she is living on her own for the first time… and she is rocking it. She is about to graduate with her Master’s Degree in Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis in just four months. The entire family is flying to Michigan to watch her walk the stage on May 1st. I am so grateful that she found the courage to invest in herself and be truly happy. Way to go, Angel!!! You are an inspiration to me.
I’m moving toward 2020 with a lot of hope and gratitude in my heart. Though we still have some trials which we are facing, nothing seems insurmountable when compared to past hardships. At the end of the day, all we want is for our children to be happy and when they aren’t happy or can’t be happy (through no fault of their own especially), it makes the rest of life impossible to enjoy. I want to leave you with 2 quotes:
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not utter words but to live by them.”~John F. Kennedy
“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”~ Maya Angelou
2020 will be a year to truly live not just survive, to enjoy the present moment and not just watch it pass, and to express my gratitude in my actions, words, photos, and how I spend my time. Thank you for reading and for being my friend.