We are the champions

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Riley’s team beat its nemesis of the last two years to win the tournament championship 8-4. Riley had two RBIs and scored once. Below, is the game in pictures, starting with me and my friend Melissa (our third baseman Kam’s mom) just before Ryan threw the first pitch.

Yeah, we know. We’re hot.

Riley is ready for some action.

Riley gets a hit …

That ended up as a “triple …”

And she scores!

“Would someone please hit it to me? I’m getting bored.”

Senators win! Yay!

Momma showing off her team spirit!

Gerald (Kam’s dad) and my daddy taking in the celebration

Riley and one of her best friends, Kam

Ryan and Riley & Gerald and Kam

Riley & Ryan, who pitched an awesome game

Softball

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The first and third photos of Riley were taken by my friend Melissa; the middle one is mine with some effects done in Photoshop Mobile. We’re about to head to the field for a doubleheader. Go, Senators!

Right now, the girls are in second place, with four games to go. The tournament starts May 17, which is also one of Riley’s dress rehearsal days for dance. But that’s a whole different story.

A change has come

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I haven’t blogged about this yet, but I love my new job (part time) as department secretary at Huntsville Hospital Pediatric Therapy – I feel like I’m making a difference for the children we see, and I feel like I’m giving back a little of what so many have helped us with during Riley’s journey to hearing.

The clinic sees patients for speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and now audiology. It’s exciting that families no longer have to drive to Birmingham or Nashville to have their child’s hearing tested or their cochlear implants mapped or their hearing aids adjusted. All that is available in Huntsville now.

It took a lot of hard work from the therapists, the audiologist, the volunteers, the hospital’s foundation, and many donors to help get the audiology program started. And it’s so worth it.

I’m learning so much about how these services really benefit these kids. I know first-hand how great auditory-verbal therapy is. Now I’m learning the benefits of OT. And about how you do PT with a 3-month-old. These therapy disciplines are fascinating.

Another cool thing? I wear scrubs to work. No futzing with dress pants and shoes. Or trying to find a shirt that fits. Or that isn’t too wrinkled. Just toss on the scrubs and go. I’m working on my color combos: Today it was turquoise and red; other days it’s been hot pink and navy.

I’m still writing, too. In fact, I’m working on a story right now for a national publication and another for a regional parenting magazine. And, of course, I’m still writing for VisitSouth.com’s Huntsville site. Stop by and leave me a comment there, too. The more links and visits and shares and tweets and posts I get the better.

In case you’re wondering, I took a buyout from the newspaper in January and was set to be a full-time writer when this opportunity at the hospital came along. Sometimes things have a way of working out, when the time is right. The good Lord knows what He is doing.

I’m loving my new schedule, and I’ve almost grown accustomed to getting up early. I’m still working on getting to bed early, as you can see. It’s nearly 11 p.m. and I’m banging away on this keyboard!

So that’s my update for now. Things are going well, and we’re enjoying life!

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!

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?

Playing ball when you’re deaf

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She's come a long way since she got her first glove in 2003.

Riley’s had two softball practices with another set for Saturday. She’s paying better attention this year, but we still need to figure out a better way to communicate than just yelling at her. It’s hard for anyone to hear a coach yelling from the dugout during a game and even harder when you’re hearing impaired. That’s one reason we’re considering an FM system … so she can hear easily whether she’s on the field, in the classroom or out in the backyard.

Another family offered to let Riley try out the system their children no longer use, so I think a phone call is in order. Of course, the system will have to be tweaked to complement Riley’s hearing and programs, but we should get started on this soon.

The first two practices were COLD – the poor girls were bundled up so tightly they could barely move! And you know how much it hurts when you swing the bat and don’t hit the ball solidly. Ouch!

She batted right-handed the first practice and did OK, but she switched back to being a lefty the second day and did even better. I’m going to let her decide how she’s most comfortable at the plate. Lefty or righty, it’s her choice.

The coach worked her out at second base and Riley did really well for her first time on the field since May. Several of the other girls played throughout the fall and are also playing on a travel team during the community season, too. They’re getting a lot more reps, but Riley will catch up.

I’m the dugout mom again – keeping the batting order; making sure helmets, batting gloves and bats are where they’re supposed to be; helping the catcher get dressed; bandaging any scrapes or strawberries; and yelling for mom or dad if I can’t help. Basically, several moms are tag-teaming to take care of everything from uniforms to snacks to picture day to concession duty.

Ryan might pitch, if he can work out his schedule so he can be there e

nough. It won’t be fair for him to start as the pitcher and have the girls get used to him then have to rotate someone else in.

We’re all ready for spring and softball and warm weather.

Fitness Fridays = Physical Fridays (Apolo Ohno still rocks)

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My brother and I are all smiles at the end of my first 5K. Riley was a big motivator at the end. Can I get back to that place?

I’ve got to start somewhere and right now that’s just doing some kind of physical activity each day.  With my surgeries, my dad’s emergency and long recovery, I never got on track with my fitness goals. So instead of making these grand plans to run/walk 5 times a week, etc., I’m going to just try to do something active every day.

This week I did laundry: loading, unloading and folding and putting away. Ryan usually does the laundry, but with the change in my schedule, I’m able to do more around the house. Last night, I danced (in high heels) as Harry Connick Jr. (more on that later) sang at the VBC Concert Hall. Tomorrow I’ll be at Riley’s softball practice, likely helping out by chasing down foul balls. Every little bit helps.

I’ve edited my big goals:

Do 10 real pushups
Wear my GAP boyfriend jeans (in my closet since 2007) smallest size Lane Bryant jeans
Do the Ribbon Run 5K in October Cotton Row 5K in May
Wear my cute workout tanks/shorts again
Get my calves back into my tall boots without spillage
Carry Riley to bed without giving myself a hernia
Fit into my Bama T-shirts this football by the end of softball season
Outrun 8- and 9-year-olds at softball practice next spring by the end of summer

So those are my big goals … today. They might change tomorrow or next week as I have more time to think about where I’m headed. I will also have to decide what steps I’ll take to meet these goals. Next week’s post will cover that.

The Olympics are winding down, and tonight we saw why Apolo Anton Ohno is one of the best short-track speedskaters in the world. He had to jump over one of two skaters who went down in the quarterfinals, and he avoided another spinout in the semifinals.

He won his eighth medal as he anchored the U.S. to a bronze in the team relay. He should’ve had nine, but a ticky-tack call by a Canadian judge disqualified him (he had the silver) in the 500-meter because he touched one of the Canadian skaters. However, a different Canadian skater put his hand on a Korean skater. Then the Korean skater touched that Canadian. But who was disqualified? Ohno, the skater who was in fourth place at the time. Judging is far too subjective in speedskating.

After that disappointing ruling, Ohno came back to skate an incredible race in the relay to pull the USA to the bronze after being fourth for most of the race. His heart and drive are incredible. There’s no quit in him. A good reminder as I start my fitness journey: If an obstacle slows you down, don’t quit. Make the leap and keep skating.

How do you map an ear?

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Audiologist Emily Rector checks the connection between Riley's CI processor and the computer.

Yesterday I talked about taking Riley to her mapping appointment at the HEAR Center. You’re probably wondering what that means. Mapping means programming. It’s a little like upgrading the software on your computer. Sometimes your computer slows down or needs a boost to do some new processes.

Riley wears her CIs everywhere but in the water and to sleep

Same thing with the CI processors, which are the pink and blue devices you see Riley wearing. They contain tiny computers that need occasional updates.

The cochlear implant processors have to be readjusted at various intervals depending on how long a child has worn them. For example, when Riley first got her CIs, she had to get them mapped every month for the first couple of months. Then every three months for a couple of years. After nearly seven years, unless she’s having trouble with the CI, Riley’s map is updated every six months.

The audiologist hooks the processors to her computer and updates the software on them. This mapping sets the devices’ electrode stimulation levels in Riley’s cochlea so she can detect soft and loud sounds comfortably.

Over time, Riley will adapt to the settings. What was once too loud might become too soft as her brain’s auditory center gets used to the sounds. Then we’ll go back for another mapping session.

Today I am 38

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My birthday is today. I didn’t do much, but that’s OK. I took Riley to her MAPping session today at Children’s HEAR Center in Birmingham – all went well there. After we got back to town, we met Ryan at Phil Sandoval’s for an awesome Mexican dinner.

When we got home I was instructed to go to my office and shut the down. I sprawled in the floor and flipped through More magazine and waited. Riley came and got me and I noticed all the lights were out. She made me close my eyes and she led me into the kitchen, where a chocolate cake with chocolate icing was lighted by a 3 and an 8 and two gifts waited. It was very sweet, and the cake was good, too.

I’ve spent the rest of the evening in my pajamas, watching Riley do one-armed cartwheels, watching the Olympics, playing with WordPress plugins, and listening to music and watching videos like this one and this one and this one and this one and this one. And drinking Coke and eating Doritos and Chips Ahoy chocolate chunk cookies.

It’s been a good day. I’m not going to look back at my last birthday and all the things I wanted to do but didn’t. You can read the dirty details in the related posts below. No point in looking back and getting down on myself. I’ll just keep working to get where I want to be. Eventually I’ll get there.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes! I love my friends!

And what better way to close out my birthday than with a little Jon Bon Jovi and a 16-year-old’s memories? Sweet dreams, y’all …

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!