Turning A Page

Img_3801

If life were a book, the past couple of weeks for our family have been filled with new chapters. Fall is in the air, and the weather has become wonderfully, noticeably cooler ~ We sadly lost a dear family friend ~ A longtime friend was married ~ The Democratic National Convention came to our Queen City, bringing many people and lots of opportunity for small and big businesses alike ~ and Bliss began a new chapter…..she started preschool.

We decided to send Bliss to a preschool close to home and one that I’d had some really positive experiences with.  The director is top-notch, and has been nothing but helpful and attentive to Bliss’ needs, and the past couple of weeks have proven that we chose well~

Bliss’ teachers are amazing!  They have called each time her implant’s processor has stopped working, due to a battery issue or something quirky.  It’s been great, because if I’m available, I can run her back-up processor to her school, so she has very little time without hearing. And most importantly, we get the sense that Bliss’ teachers want her to hear during time at school. They care, and that is huge!

New words have been springing forth from her, as well as some new sassy behavior:) She just turned 22 months, and she is quickly approaching two.  She says “More” and it sounds like “More.”  She said “Spoon” and it was clear.  She spontaneously said “Cheese!” when I brought it out of the fridge. She is attempting the actual word “Airplane” and also approximated “Olive Oil.” She also has learned “No!” with the head shake. However, her new big word is “Apple.”  It is so clear and in context – it blows me away every time she says it.  What is even cooler, is that her class is currently studying “Apples” during the month of September – she heard and learned “Apple” at school.  It is like a switch has been flipped, and her new environment made up of the best language models possible, her peers, has spurred on her development in a new, unforeseen way.

Also, another unforeseen action has been happening at home. Her processor and hearing aid have been removed a lot, especially when mom and dad are not giving attention like it is desired. Sometimes the removed processor is graciously handed over to mom or dad, and sometimes it’s thrown like a boomerang.  Last week, I lost it, broke down and cried when the processor came off for about the 20th time.  My husband is the man, and he talked me down. With all of the high points of the past couple of weeks, this new behavior has definitely been the most challenging. We think with her new life change of preschool, Bliss is letting us know who is ultimately in control of wearing her “ears.”  It keeps us on our toes and tuned in.  More on that later!

She is making connections easily now too; For instance, I can ask her to get a book without gesturing. She will go find one and bring it to me.  Also, she is the happiest we’ve seen her. WOW! She is hearing, and she is understanding.  Thank you CCCDP, Chapel Hill + all of our speech and language superheroes!

We are so excited about Bliss’ new chapter and can’t wait to see how her story will continue to unfold~

*This post is in memory of Fletcher Green~

 

Music To Our Ears

One of the most exciting doors Bliss’ cochlear implant has opened to her is the world of music. She loves it.  Here’s a video of her playing a musical toy – the green turtle, and doin’ a little groove.

 

Singing songs to Bliss throughout each day is another encouraged activity to help strengthen her listening skills.  The “Itsy Bitsy Spider” is her fave, in addition to “Patty Cake,” and “Open Shut Them.”  We also like to make up songs and sing them to her – it’s fun and keeps us on our toes~

We also went to story time at our local library recently. The brilliant storyteller played the Chicken Dance Music, and the kids went crazy.  Every day deserves some chicken dance.

She is learning how to snap, and sometimes will just break into dance when she hears something musical from her environment or in her mind – it’s pretty awesome.  

Now that the dog days of summer are upon us, we plan on having daily dance-offs at our house. Bliss has a “Music Together” CD that she enjoys hearing, and she’ll/we’ll freestyle dance to it when we can.  It rocks, it’s fun and it’s freeing.

On that note, Bliss also has really increased her mimicking, both verbally and vocally.  If one of us lilts our voice or slides from a higher pitch to a lower pitch, or vice versa, Bliss attempts to repeat what she’s heard.  Her dad has a great ear (yup, he’s a daddy-o musician), and they have fun playing repetition with sounds + songs.

This new world of music is a definite score, and we can’t wait for whatever comes next, as Bliss’ discovery of music and expression grow…..for us, it’s a high note.

Sound Bites 

-Yesterday Bliss heard a train in the distance, looked at me, and said, “choo choo.”

-We looked at a book of farm animals yesterday and after a couple of weeks of not repeating “whoo whoo” for owl, she pointed at the picture of the owl and said “whoo whoo.”

-She consistently declares “all done” when she finishes a meal.

-When asked “where is your sippy cup?” she will find it and pick it up.

 

 

 

 

Summer Reading is Sound Medicine

Bliss_bookshelf

Every time we visit Bliss’ audiologist, Jennifer, or meet with Amazing E, we’re reminded of one important action that we’re strongly encouraged to take.  Read 10 books a day to Bliss.  This is her daily medicine.

There are other recommended activities that are incorporated into Bliss’ day, however, reading to her seems to be the one action that always resurfaces and that parents and caregivers are encouraged to implement.  It’s benefits are far-reaching and strengthen language development in addition to overall success in literacy.  Check out this article available online, that maps out why reading aloud to a hearing promise child is so beneficial, just click here.  

There are several different tracks parents and caregivers can choose from in terms of how a child with hearing promise can learn to communicate.  All are wonderful. All are valid.  Each family in NC with a hearing promise child, is able to choose the path of communication that is best for their child and their family. There are no right choices or wrong choices.  We chose the Auditory Verbal Approach via cochlear implant for Bliss. With this choice, our focus is dual in strengthening her listening and verbal skills during all waking hours, so that listening and speech will develop as if her hearing promise was already fulfilled at birth. Reading is a big part of this development. Moving forward, I will refer to hearing loss as hearing promise.  I heard the term “promise,” in another context, from a fabulous advocate for children, David Griffin.

With the start of summer and warm days ahead, there’s no better time to dive into reading!  Board books are our favorites, with lots of pictures.  Mostly we try and read about 3 to 5 books after breakfast.  Then we read about 3 or so right after lunch and pre-nap. Finally, her dad reads to her every night before bedtime. Now let me interject, we try our best to meet the 10-book-a-day quota. Some days are better than others, and sometimes we meet it and sometimes we don’t.

Another fabulous adventure we’ve discovered is the Public Library!  My sister-in-law, a talented teacher, told me about story time for children at the library.  She encouraged going, and we went…we love it!  Not only is Bliss surrounded by other children, but the readings, songs and bubbles are rockin’.  Not to mention the best part, it’s FREE! We’re spending a lot of time at the library this summer; between story time and free theatre, we feel like we’ve hit the jackpot. Our public library is a brilliant hybrid which consists of a children’s library + our city’s professional children’s theatre, all under one magnificent roof.  Check it out here.

Keeping up with the book quota and other activities for Bliss’ hearing promise, we have had little time for TV.  We decided early on that she would not watch TV during her first couple years of life.  I know, we’re crazy.  It was a personal decision.  On a realistic note, there have been occasions where I’ve needed the arms of an octopus, the patience of a saint when the implant’s processor was being eaten, and the discipline of I don’t know who, when I wanted to rip my hair out….and that fabulous TV has been a life saver, buying me a few minutes to deal with what’s at hand.  Backyardigans, I could kiss you!  Ironically, Bliss seems to have very little interest in TV, and usually watches for a little bit….then she’ll wander back to her toys and eventually her books, wanting mommy to read. Blessing or curse? Perhaps a little bit of both.

Reading has also helped us connect with Bliss in a fun, creative way. She understands the action “turn the page,” and anticipates page-turning like nobody’s business.  She is beginning to respond and anticipate changes in stories as they unfold. For instance, she’ll scream or hide her face when the bear wakes up in “Bear Snores On,” and she’ll relax in dad’s arms when she hears “Goodnight Moon.”  She is also pointing to specific characters and making appropriate sounds (i.e. “woof woof” for dog, and identifying the pictured dog with her finger). When she is in her playroom, she hangs out by her books.  Sometimes she’ll just take books off the shelf, one by one, and sometimes she’ll pick out which ones to be read next. Empowering.  

Some of our favorite reads include, in no particular order, “Stellaluna” by Janell Cannon; “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown; “Have you Ever Tickled a Tiger?” by Betsy Snyder; “Gossie” by Olivier Dunrea; “Pooh and Friends Marching” by Healthy Kids; “Farm” by Usborne; “Clifford The Big Red Dog” by Norman Bridwell; “Colors” by Bright Baby; “Bear Snores On” by Karma Wilson + Jane Chapman; “Wheels on the Bus” by Troubadour Learning; “Mr. Wishy- Washy” by Joy Cowley; and finally, “Madeline in London” by Ludwig Bemelmans. 

Also, below are a few fun links about reading – check them out!  Summer is here, and while there is plenty to do outdoors, be sure to take time and get in your daily dose of reading….for us, it’s sound medicine.

Summer Reading Inspiration:

Barnes + Noble Summer Reading

New York Times Best Seller List – Children’s Picture Books

PBS, Raise a Reader this Summer

Reading Rockets

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge 

Quick Sound Bites:

-One morning this week, without her implant processor on, Bliss said “poo poo,” to let me know it was time to change her diaper.

-She spontaneously says “bye bye” now, in context.

-She is pronouncing the word “more” with improved clarity every day…especially at meal time!

-She pointed, identified and said “ball” when she saw a picture of a ball in one of her books.

Bliss_desk_2

Goodbye Ms. Willow Oak

Fairies

When I was a little girl, there was a big tree beside our house.  My mother told me and my sisters that fairies live in trees, and that it would be good to bring them gifts like acorns, leaves and surcies that fairies would find lovely.  She also encouraged us to have pretend parties beneath the tree – basically, to imagine and enjoy.  I am 41 years old, and I remember this.

Today we said goodbye to a faithful friend, Ms. Willow Oak. She lived in the front yard of our house we believe for 90+ years, and she weathered a lot.  She was a bad ass tree.  So this morning, the Butterworth Tree Angels arrived to carry her down to earth and bring her back to dust.  

Then several things happened as the day unfolded….

I posted a pic of her best angle on Facebook this morning, and several friends posted comments. Lucy Hazelhurst, a talented and wonderful woman, suggested we read “The Giving Tree” in honor of Ms. Willow Oak. I think Bliss will love it (It will also fulfill the daily book quota we adhere to for speech therapy, more on that later).  

Our friend, Jory, suggested we have a tea party on Ms. Willow Oak’s stump (brilliant idea!).

And finally, mid-morning, we enjoyed a playdate with our friends visiting from Alabama, Patty, Sofia + Nathan. When we arrived, Sofia was wearing green fairy wings, and called herself the “Fairy Queen.” Her mom, Patty, then found a pink pair of wings for Bliss to don.

Tree, tea + fairies….it feels like life has come full circle.  

So on this day and in honor of reading, and most importantly, imagination, we raise a teacup to Ms. Willow Oak~

Ms

 

 

Sounds like a Superhero Strategy

As soon as Bliss was diagnosed with severe and profound hearing loss, support nets began to fly in. North Carolina is a great state to live in if you are hearing impaired.  The combined state supported programs that are in place to help parents, children and caregivers serve each and every child with hearing loss until s/he is is 21 years of age.  Let me tell you, these programs and their employees have been a lifeline to me and my family.

Within days of her diagnosis, Chapel Hill had effectively communicated Bliss’ situation to all of the proper agencies, and they in turn contacted me.  In less than one month, we had a team in place to support us: Amazing E with the NC Early Intervention Program for Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Marvelous M + Soawesome S with Mecklenburg County Children’s Developmental Services and Gogetem J with Beginnings (yes, they each deserve a superhero name).

These folks came to our home, explained their roles in Bliss’ development and designed schedules, strategies and lessons that were immediately put into place.  Was I shocked + overwhelmed, like Lois Lane in Superman? You bet.  However, as a result, we meet weekly with Amazing E, monthly with Marvelous M or Soawesome S + at 4 years of age with Gogetem J. Pretty darn cool if you ask me.

From these meetings, come the core of Bliss’ development and the pearls of her growth.  We’ll share specific strategies that are used day in and day out and hope to give several “sound bites” each post, about Bliss’ daily discoveries.

On that note, I have to thank a friend of many years, Michael N., who is behind the superhero inspiration for this post.  Michael N. recently told me about a fabulous new Marvel Superhero named “Blue Ear,” who uses a special listening device for super-sonic hearing.  “Blue Ear” was created in honor of a four year old hearing impaired boy. It is an inspiring and heartwearming story, check it out. Just click here to read more, and be sure to stay tuned….

Img_2007

 

 

Woof Woof

Tonight my husband read Bliss an Elmo book, where Elmo is searching for his dog.  Ironically, today we worked on Dog, woof woof, as one of her identifying animal words.  He asked her on each page where the dog was.  She pointed to the picture of the hiding dog on each page, and accompanied it with “oof oof.”  We are toasting B tonight with a glass of vino!

Speed of Sound

Img_1471

Yesterday was the 5 month anniversary of our daughter Bliss’ cochlear implant activation, and time has flown….In honor of the fabulous 5 months with Bliss’ “ears on,”  our blog has begun! Each day it seems that cool and awesome discoveries are happening with both her listening skills and speech development, so we’ve decided to blog, save and share these milestones with our family and friends. We’re proud of our baby girl, and here goes with a little background about Bliss, our family and her story.

My husband and I have been married for 12 years, our parents and families have been good friends for more than 30 years, and we began our journey to adopt in 2008.  Bliss came into our custody Saturday, November 20, 2010.  It was a glorious whirlwind.  We lived out of a hotel for almost one week and came home in time for Thanksgiving that year.  She was and is the light of our lives.  Her official adoption was finalized April 8, 2011.  On that day, we celebrated, oh yes we did!

At three months old Bliss was diagnosed with bilateral severe and profound hearing loss, and at four months, we began making the journey to Chapel Hill to pursue and meet with several highly recommended doctors and audiologists; North Carolina has been good to us.  The services provided by the state have given us weekly visits from a licensed speech/hearing therapist and instructor, and monthly visits from a social worker, who I like to call our angel of all things, for instance, right now, we are working on teaching Mama (me) how to properly coiff Bliss’ hair in addition to day-to-day discipline.  It’s Fab!

Bliss’ team of audiologists and doctors are in Chapel Hill at the University’s Medical Center, and we couldn’t be happier with the incredible care Bliss has received from UNC-CH.  My husband is a State grad and a Wolfpack fan through and through, however, our house is now divided.  Bliss and Mama are diehard Tarheel fans, since we were given Bliss’ “ears” in CH.

December 6, 2011, Dr. Craig Buchman performed cochlear implant surgery on Bliss.  January 4, 2012, her implant was activated at CASTLE in Durham, NC and her hearing began. 

Our road to finding Bliss and her adventure in Sound were both made possible by our incredible support network of family and friends.  It takes a village, and our village has lifted and carried us through rain, sleet, snow and sunshine.  For that, we are forever grateful.

We hope you enjoy reading about our day to day discoveries of Bliss’ adventures in sound. We sure do.  What we know now, that we didn’t know before, is that yes, Sound is Bliss~