Friday, April 30, 2010

Sean's Story A Lesson In Life Update Part 2

As promised, here's the rest of the update on Sean. After graduation, Sean got a job as a greeter at Walmart where he worked for almost 2 years. He made many, many friends there and was able to greet many people from our local community that he knew. With the change in management and management styles, Sean's employment there ended. What a shame as Walmart lost a very dedicated conscientious employee.

Sean has since found a small part time job working at the Wild Bird Center, located at 12234 Tullamore Rd in Timonium MD. Sean's responsibilities there are to stock the bird seed when it is delivered early Wednesday morning. He has to off load it from the pallets, negotiate his way through the store and restock, and store the excess in the rear stockroom. Sean's boss John Sala has been a wonderful and supportive employer. Sean looks forward to going every Wednesday, getting up and being prepared well ahead of the time that morning. The Wild Bird Center sells not only bird seed but every kind of bird feeder that you can imagine. One of my favorites is the one that gives a squirrel a merry-go-round ride when it tries to steal some seed.

Sean has made a very special friend at The Wild Bird Center....Ms. Hattie....she, Sean and Ian are in the top picture. Sean adores Hattie and this is a big step for him as Sean dislikes most dogs due to a frightening experience he had when he was younger. Hattie is the most gentle of souls and loves to be rubbed and give kisses.

Sean works with a supportive employement agency to find a full time job and to give him support as needed. We were able to find a agency that shared our views of inclusiveness. In addition to looking for a job, Sean has been able to volunteer at various agencies to gain some valuable "work skills" as well as to give back to the community. At Thanksgiving time, Sean worked in a soup kitchen alongside his community employment advocate to serve the homeless a hot meal.

He also volunteered at the American Cancer Society local chapter helping with their envelope fund raising campaign. As for what the future holds for hope if that his future is limitless. I hope that society gives Sean and all people with disabilities a chance. I know that I will work til my last breath to make sure that happens.

Statistics suggest that every family will be touched by someone with some kind of disability or challenge. We as a society need to look at how we treat each other. We wouldn't want our loved ones treated unfairly, now would we? So the next time you see the little down syndrome child playing on the playground, encourage your child to befriend them. Hold the door open for that person in a wheelchair not out of just courtesy but out of respect for that person or better yet, why not engage in an exchange of "hello", betcha they will give back to you more than you will ever realize.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sean's Story A Lesson In Life Update Part 1

I've been debating about doing this blog post or not for a long time now. And it's not such a simple yes or no see we started down this path many, many years ago and it's been the right path for my family. So I guess it is the right thing to do afterall...

Most of those that know me, know that I have a son, Sean who is 24 and was born with Down Syndrome. As a young mother at 23, the doctors told me to take my son home and treat him as I would any other, so we did. Well with one or two modifications. Sean need special therapies to help him do things...regular things that every kid normally does. So we set out to find the help Sean needed. He was enrolled in a special education school from 2 months old....I know you're saying, what can a 2 month old learn....well as I said all the "normal" things and he wasn't gonna stay little forever. So we went down that path...infants and toddlers, PT, OT and Speech Therapy. We had something to do 5 days a week...mostly in the morning as I still worked full time as I went to work after doing all the things that Sean needed each day. Our life went like this for 5 years.

In the fall of what would be Sean's kindergarten year, we had a meeting with the teacher. I asked her when she was going to address teaching ABC' know the things kids in kindergarten learn. She told me that the children weren't ready to learn them...ok, not taking that for an answer I asked what they "needed" to be "ready". She told me they needed to know the ABC song....well I knew most of the kids in Sean's class as I watched them grow from infants. I socialized with these families as we had a common bond...a child with a handicap. So I knew that these kids knew that song....well I knew all but 1 did and that was only because he was new to the school. So that started me further down the path of change...that and the comment the principal of the "special" school made. She said "Kids like Sean never leave Ridge school". She was determining my child's path based on his disability!

Needless to say Sean did leave that school. We started down the path to inclusion. In the swirl of the controversy that was surrounding LRE (least restrictive environment) as our school system was being sued under a federal EDGAR complaint, we decided to enroll Sean in a regular education school. We were approached by ABC News Turning Point, to do a full access documentary on Sean's first year in inclusion. We agreed to give full access, the school was on board so we went ahead and the school boards superintendent was fully supportive. So we lived for a year with an ABC news crew in and out of our home filming everything from school, our home life and Sean's recreational activities.

At the beginning of Sean's second grade year, the show was aired. Meredith Viera was the host and the documentary, Sean's Story: A Lesson In Life, chronicled Sean's first year. It also followed Sean's friend Bobby, who's parents choose to keep him at Ridge school.

As time passed I had the opportunity to speak to many college students that were majoring in education. I was delighted to have a part in helping to shape the future teachers that children across the country would have. I would go to colleges and speak openly and frankly answering all their questions regarding the nuts and bolts of how it all worked. Sean's Story soon was included in text books that these young college students were learning from. The emails and phones call continue to this day, all these many years later, so that's part of why I'm doing this post. One question is consistent in every email or call....what happened to Sean after that year....the show sort of did leave you wondering. Anyway, I hope to answer some of those questions here.

After Sean's first year at Sparks Elementary, our beautiful old school had a devastating fire and was burned to the ground. We were lucky to be able to house the kids intact, at a under utilized middle school that wasn't too far away. So Sean's second year continued without too much interruption. His teacher told me that Sean would never learn to read phonetically...well that became her new mission and my new goal....glad to say that Sean did learn and still does read that way! The rest of Sean's elementary school went on with a few issues. Every year we had some "attitudes" that may have needed adjustment but for the most part, things weren't bad. During that time, we also had a new addition in our family, in Ian, our youngest, who many who read my blog will remember, is my creative genius!

Anyway, on to middle school , a whole bunch of new kids to befriend, with few adjustments and not many issues. Then came high school. We were welcomed with open arms. Anything was possible at Hereford High School. They made it work. There wasn't a time when they said no. I can not thank Hereford High school and their wonderful staff enough for all that they did for Sean. Sean was very well known in the school. He had an infectious friendly personality.

In the spring of 2005 (Sean's graduating class) Sean attended his senior prom. Well the night was magical. The kids voted Sean as prom king! Yep, Sean was that well liked by his peers. What a proud moment for me...that these kids actually "got it"! That Sean was accepted by his peers for he who he was. Sean didn't exit school that year, as kids in MD with disabilities are able to stay til 21 so that's what we did.

Sean and Delene dancing as prom king and queen.

The next 2 years we brushed up on writing and math skills. Sean was able to do some work experience outside of school as part of his curriculum. Sean also found bowling. He was appointed co captain of the high school Allied Bowling team. He was able to help out the varsity baseball team that his younger brother, Josh played on. As the end of the year approached, the physical education staff, who adored Sean, gave him a Hawaiian themed graduation party. A party that was attended by over 200 students. Many, many more wanted to sign up to attend but the cut off had to be made somewhere. It was nice to see how much Sean had touched everyone's lives.

As graduation night approached, Sean attended commencement practice just like everyone else. We had special seats reserved for us on the night of graduation, right behind the students, so we were able to see all the action. The students one by one filed up on stage to receive their diplomas. When Sean's name was announced, his whole graduating class, stood and gave him a standing ovation as he walked across the stage. What a nice tribute. These kids admired that Sean gave 110% of himself, every day, every minute. They respected him and he them. These kids got it! Another tear jerker moment for mom! It was a sad day for Sean to leave his beloved Hereford High but it was time to move on.

The rest of the story will have to wait til tomorrow as I am afraid this post has already been too long.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Don't Forget Mom...

On Mothers's less than 2 weeks away!

Being the mom of 3 boys this sign is so true....until they are safely tucked away in their beds I can't relax...there is always something that they need done and they forgot to tell me about, some paper needs to be signed, they need money for this or that, they need something washed and the list goes on and on!

What a nice sentiment. This was a sign that I did for a Mothers Day Challenge that my etsy group Olde Farmhouse Gathering had. While my entry didn't win the challenge, it did sell, so thank you to my buyer. I hope that your mother enjoys the sign on Mother's Day.

Of course there isn't a mother alive on the planet that hasn't made this comment if not once, a thousand times! I know I have!

And of course I already told you that I am the money tree! Someone always needed money for lunch, the book fair, a field trip, gym uniforms, etc, etc, etc!

Don't forget grandma too! Afterall she is the "queen" mother! As always you can find these signs and many more in my etsy shoppe.

To all the mothers out early "Happy Mothers Day!"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day...40 years

This Earth Day is the 40th anniversary of a call to action. The EPA is asking for ordinary citizens to pick 5 things that they can do to help save the environment. It may be a simple as choosing new energy star rated appliance when replacing old, worn and inefficient ones. E-cycle used electronic appliances that are broken or no longer in use. Recycle bottles, metal cans, aluminum, plastic containers and yard waste. Or better yet, upcycle new life and use to old products. Use less pesticides...not only is it better for the land, the ground water, the air quality, it provides a sense of satisfaction to do it by hand.

Another idea that isn't directly mentioned in the link above is how about going paperless on all those bills we get each month? Paying bills online also reduces the need for envelopes, postage and the postal workers to deliver the mail. Not only will you reduce the paper waste, you will save more trees and make for a healthy environment. Betcha most of us are already doing this somewhat!

Some of the commitments that I have made this year are to replace old energy inefficient appliances...the new Energy Star rated dishwasher is going a long way to reducing my electric cost on usage of just that appliance, by half. Hope to replace the washer with a front loader and the dryer with a new gas model this summer.

I have made a stronger commitment to using less pesticides...I've invested $5 and some basic labor to keep my lawn dandelion free....yep, I'm digging them out the old fashioned way!

I have purchased reusable shopping bags for my frequent shopping trips instead of getting the plastic ones the stores supply. Sometimes I even skip the bag altogether. Using recyclable bags takes some getting use to....gotta remember to put them in the cars trunk after each use and to take them in the store with me but with each use, it's getting easier. Also some jurisdiction are imposing a bag tax to encourage using recyclable bags and to reduce the litter caused by the fact the District of Columbia just enacted such legislation.

We are growing more of our own food. And I plan on buying more local produce to reduce the costs associated with transporting food to the store. This not only will help the environment it will also help sustain local farmers and help preserve farmland by purchasing directly from the grower at the many local farmers market held in my area.

I plan to use less water by using only the water I need. We just bought a new touch on/off faucet for our kitchen remodel and look forward to seeing what kind of water savings we can get just by touching the water off and on as needed. If one was available for the bathroom, I would buy one for there too! I can't wait to try it out!

We already recycle and upcycle, turn off lights when not in use, pay our bills online and hopefully adding my new 5 picks will make a greater impact on our world or at least in our household.

These are small steps to take and I know that if everyone just picked 5 we could make a difference. So what will you pick?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Play Ball!

It's spring and baseball time in Baltimore. Our family has always been a baseball family. It's kinda funny how that happens but I guess it goes back to what the dad grew up playing....kinda determines what sports the kids gravitate towards.

We've been doing baseball for as long as I can remember. Sean, our oldest started playing when he was 6, and that was 18 years ago! Boy does time fly when you get older! Now we are down to our youngest, Ian playing baseball. Of course having older brothers that have played the sport helps. You learn the fundamentals quicker, because afterall you grew up absorbing like a sponge all that your older brothers did. Hopefully this inside information will make you a better player.

My middle son, Josh was the child who came out of the womb playing baseball. He learned how to walk hitting "my first baseball"....completely forgot that he was standing and took off after the ball he just hit! Boy, was that a funny sight, when he realized he had walked...sat right down and crawled back to the tee! As Josh got older he played travel ball and we spent many weekends at baseball tournaments. When he went to high school he made the JV and then Varsity team as their catcher. Joshua basically lived, eat and breathed baseball....

Ian's inspiration isn't quite the same. He enjoys baseball but not to the level that his brother did....but that's ok. We don't spend nearly as much time on the baseball field as we did. Now it's only 2 nights a week....I do kinda miss all the nights and weekends since it was such a big part of our life for many, many years, but I had to find other pursuits to fill the void and I have.

As you can see, one of Ian's biggest challenges on the baseball field is figuring out how to stuff more big league chew into his mouth! He has learned some of the fundamentals of base running, hitting and fielding and still has more to learn but I think he's perfected the gum wad!

So far this year, Ian's team is off to a rocket start. They have won their first 2 games. Ian has been fortunate to have the same coach 3 years in a row, so his coach knows him well. Hopefully they will continue with the same success and have some fun along the way. See you on the baseball diamond!