No longer on duty

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Riley gets a hit and heads for first

After two years of being dugout mom for Riley’s softball team, I’m not this year. And it’s working out great! Riley is becoming more independent and taking more responsibility for herself.

I don’t have to worry about her getting her helmet or bat or glove or mask. Or getting her “skull wrap” on to keep her CI processors in place under her batting helmet. She does it all on her own. I can relax and watch the game instead of fussing to get her and the other girls ready to bat. Or hustle to get them back on the field for defense.

This year’s dugout/team mom is waaaay more organized than I am! She had the game schedule, snack duties, concession duties and picture day all set up before you could say “Go, Senators!” She’s doing a fantastic job.

The girls are 5-1, and they’ve been playing so well lately. Everyone’s hitting, and they’re making good, solid plays on defense. At times they have a tendency to throw the ball around, but that just comes from being 7- and 8-year-olds and getting a little too excited sometimes.

Ryan grooves a pitch to one of our hitters.

Riley makes the throw to first for the out.

Ryan is pitching this year, and he’s doing a good job. He’s learning where all the girls like to swing, and they are connecting. And crushing it.

Riley’s learned a lot about playing defense this year, and she’s getting comfortable in the outfield and at second base.

It’s a joy to see her having fun and learning and being physical. I hope her love of activity lasts a lifetime.

And my new job allows me to go to the games and hang out afterward, instead of rushing back to edit the newspaper. It’s awesome having a normal (well, relatively speaking) life now that I’m not working nights!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

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Riley has to finish these three before getting the next one.

I took Riley to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid a couple of weeks ago. It was a snap decision. We got home from my parents’ house on Friday evening at 4:30, saw the trailer about 5 and were showered and at the Rave by 6. She loved it! I enjoyed it, too, but the main character, Greg Heffley, was not my favorite. Rowley was.

Now, Riley has the books, but I haven’t read them, so I had no idea what the story was. Greg was not a nice friend, and having a pain-in-the-butt for an older brother was no excuse. Although, Rodrick was kind of cute. Rodrick is always getting Greg in trouble, and Mom never gives Greg the benefit of the doubt. Dad? He’s just clueless, while little brother Manny is adorable.

What I loved about Rowley (aside from his red hair) is that he’s just himself. He dresses how he likes, he plays, and he’s a good friend. Angie was a cool character, and I would’ve liked to have seen her in the movie more. She could be a great role model for girls.

Patty was hilarious. We’ve all known a super obnoxious kid like her, right? The girl who always has to be first, always in the spotlight and always makes sure everyone knows how great she is. Ugh!

Fregley (who is from Alabama) was disgustingly funny. But ewww! Gross! And Chirag … what a cute kid! The “cheese touch” cracked me up not only for its absurdity, but also for the way Chirag told the story. Classic middle school.

It’s worth the trip to the theater, and it led to a discussion on how to be a good friend. Like Rowley. Even if your friend is a little different. Like Rowley.

The movie made me want to read the books. And I will. As soon as I have time.

Joey McIntyre shares story of his son’s hearing loss

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Riley waits for her snack after the softball game. See her blue and pink CIs?

Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block and Dancing with the Stars fame share his family’s story of hearing loss in the latest issue of People magazine. His youngest son, 3-month-old Rhys, has been diagnosed with a severe loss and is wearing hearing aids. According to the article, the family is working with an auditory-verbal therapist and might consider cochlear implants.

Many of the comments on the article are insulting, rude, and just plain ignorant. While I have no problem with a family wanting to immerse their hearing-impaired child in Deaf culture, I do have a problem with those same people spreading lies and accusing other families of abuse because they made a different choice.

I’m going to address 20 things posted in the article’s comments and clear up a few misconceptions about cochlear implants. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section or share this post with others.

1. Cochlear implants DO NOT require additional surgeries as a child grows. The only reason additional surgery would be needed is if the device failed. CIs have a 1% failure rate.

2. Cochlear implants ARE NOT implanted into the brain. It IS NOT brain surgery.

3. If parents want their child to use spoken language, they CANNOT WAIT until the child is old enough to “make the decision for himself.” Most language learning occurs before the age of 3, so waiting would put the child at a terrible disadvantage.

4. Sign language is great, if a family wants to learn it. My family, for instance, is HUGE. I didn’t expect all 100 of them to learn ASL. Even if they wanted to, it would be nearly impossible, and Riley would’ve had no way to communicate with cousins, great aunts, and I didn’t want that.

5. My daughter knows a few signs, for those times when she doesn’t wear her CI processors, but she doesn’t “rely on” ASL and doesn’t need to.

6. Speech is available at birth. How do you think typically hearing children learn language? It seems that Rhys is benefiting from his hearing aids, so using spoken language is appropriate.

7. The implant is NOT DRILLED into the skull, like a screw is drilled into a piece of wood. A pocket for the implant is carved into the skull and a small hole is drilled into the mastoid bone so that the electrode array can be inserted into the cochlea. Read more on cochlear implant surgery at Tampa Bay Hearing and Balance Center.

Riley got hearing aids when she was 19 months old.

8. Cochlear implants don’t “fix” hearing and don’t claim to. They offer users access to sound. Just like you have to learn to speak, you also have to learn to hear.

9. AG Bell is a proponent of listening and spoken language, but that doesn’t mean the organization is against sign language. It’s not either/or.

10. Auditory-Verbal Therapy focuses on teaching a child to use her hearing and learn to speak. It DOES NOT “forbid” all gestures; in fact, a hand cue is used during therapy. It signals the child to listen.

11. If deafness is not a disability, why do so many Deaf people use hearing aids? What are you trying to “fix”?

12. Riley’s CIs don’t hurt when she puts them on.

13. Riley is a special-needs child. Any child who has an IEP or who has special accommodations at school is a special-needs child. It is not a bad thing.

14. Riley’s CIs help her hear, but she is and will always be deaf.

15 A deaf child DOES NOT belong to the Deaf culture. She belongs to her parents.

16. Riley’s hearing aids and cochlear implants and speech therapy ARE COVERED by insurance.

17. You CAN have X-rays if you have CIs. Riley has had them done at the dentist.

Jumping from the high dive into 15 feet of water was not a problem for her implants.

18. You CAN swim if you have CIs (you just take off the processors.) No, you can’t do deepwater diving, but how many people do you know who are deepwater divers?

19. Children with cochlear implants have a quality of life equal to that of hearing peers.

20. I respect Deaf families wanting to immerse their child in the Deaf culture. Why can’t they respect my wanting to immerse my child in the hearing culture?

Focusing on my subjects

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Here’s the blogging schedule I’m going to try to keep so I’ll have some focus. If something comes up, I’ll be flexible even if it doesn’t particularly fit the day. Maybe this will help me be more organized and consistent.

Media Mondays (pop culture, writing)

Worth it Wednesdays (cochlear implants/hearing loss/family)

Fitness Fridays (sports, workouts)

Coping with a child’s hearing loss

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Ryan, Riley, Tiff at Lullabies on the Links benefit golf tournament

ADVANCE for Audiologists magazine featured my family’s story as part of a series on Maintaining Patient Dignity. The piece is called The Coping Parent:

“In many cases, the parents of hearing-impaired children may need more counseling from their audiologists than the patients themselves.”

The article talks about ways audiologists can make it easier for parents to understand and deal with a diagnosis of hearing loss. And do it without belittling or being condescending toward parents.

Frank Visco, the assistant editor, did a wonderful job telling our story and putting together a slideshow of Riley. He found us through my post Delivering the Diagnosis: Your Child Is Deaf. Please visit the magazine’s site and leave a comment if you enjoyed the article.

Have you ever had a doctor or nurse make you feel like dumb like our first ENT did? How did you handle it? What else can doctors do to help patients’ families cope? Leave me a comment. Thanks!

Softball and cochlear implants

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Riley as a lefty

It’s time to gear up for softball season again, and once again, Riley will have the same coach. It’s nice that we won’t have to explain about her cochlear implants or that she needs you to use gestures if she’s in the outfield and you want her to move or running the bases and you want her to stop. Even with typical hearing, it’s hard to hear when you’re playing and the crowd is cheering and all the coaches are yelling.

This will be her second year of fast-pitch coach-pitch softball, so we should see some improvement in her hitting. She wasn’t bad last year; it just took her a while to get comfortable and find a zone.

Ryan took her to a friend’s for a little batting practice in the garage, (they have a net and use wiffle balls) and she did well. However, she has now gone from batting lefty to righty. Ryan said she did much better right-handed. Maybe it’s all the Wii we’ve been playing. 🙂 <span style=”font-style:italic;”>(The photo above is before she made the switch. That’s Ryan in the back left, and Big G on tee duty.)</span>

Riley is ready, except for a new batting helmet and cleats, which we’ll probably get this weekend since practices start next week. Games start the end of March. And since I’m not at the newspaper anymore, I won’t have to be in a hurry to get back home to my desk.

Go, Riley!

Refocusing in the new year

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Like the photo above, 2009 was a little out of focus for me. My job underwent several changes, my dad faced serious health issues, and things were just tough. 2010 promises to be interesting and exciting, and I have some focused goals. This is one of my first:

I’m refocusing my blog, basically combining my old blog with this one so I can write about, in one place, all the things I am passionate about: sports, cochlear implants, writing, my family, music and books.

I’m thinking of setting up a schedule where I post about sports/fitness on Mondays, CIs/hearing loss/family on Wednesdays, and writing/music/books/movies on Fridays. But I’ll be flexible. If something comes up and doesn’t quite fit my schedule, I’ll still post about it.

This current mish-mash of topics and sporadic posting is annoying. I’d like to get more readers and become more interactive and give as much as I get out of this blog.

So look for a more defined blog, and if I get off track, feel free to call me on it.

And Roll Tide Roll!

Losing a pet is hard for an 8-year-old

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December has been a tough month: Daddy is back in the hospital with a serious infection, and he is scheduled for major surgeries Wednesday. My grandmother fell for the third time since summer and is now in a nursing home.

And last week, we had to let Carlo, our 11-year-old lab mix, go to a better place. Ryan and Riley had taken him to an emergency vet a week earlier because he was eating very little. They came back with a diagnosis of fungal pneumonia and prescriptions for pain and antibiotics.

The meds did nothing, so our regular vet came to the house to check on him. Carlo was laboring to breathe, could hardly walk and completely stopped eating and drinking. Our vet listened to him breathe and checked him out and said it was either fungal pneumonia or lung cancer. We had already discussed a plan and once we had confirmation that we could do nothing more, we made the decision. And it was hard. Riley gave Carlo a hug, and we sent her to our neighbor’s. Ryan and I stayed with him until the end, crying and talking to him.

Carlo was the sweetest, goofiest dog. When it came to eating, he was like a vacuum. He loved to run around in the backyard, and he loved our first dog and his mentor, Eboni, whom we lost several years ago when Riley was very little. And he loved us.

I miss him snuffling against the back door when he wanted in. I miss his barks when we pulled into the driveway. I miss him looking at me with those big eyes when he wanted to go outside.

That night, Riley asked when the angels were coming to get Carlo and if we were going to put his body under his tree. She asked if he was going to play with Eb and Bonnie (Nanny’s late dog). She asked if he was going swimming. We said yes to all. We tried to explain about his spirit, but that was fruitless. We didn’t have the words to get it right. She drew a card for Carlo and Eb and took it to school and all her classmates signed it. Isn’t that the sweetest thing you’ve ever heard?

The photos below show a 20-month-old Riley checking out Eboni (red collar) and Carlo; Ryan helping Riley get to know Carlo a little better; Carlo hanging out on the patio; and Carlo “opening” his Christmas present last year. In the drawings, Riley encourages Carlo to go see Eboni in heaven and marks Carlo’s final resting spot – under his favorite tree in our backyard.