Watching Her Bloom

Anna's Newborn Picture

Photo: Julia Ozab

We have so many dreams for our children when they are born. From the first moment we see them—those tiny, wrinkled, sleepy, screamy, adorable little people—we imagine what they might look like and be like in every stage of their lives. We can’t help it.  We know we can’t know what will come, but we imagine it anyway.

And then we watch them bloom, and they are more beautiful than we could possibly imagine.

Anna jumping

Photo: Julia Ozab

Anna is eight-and-a-half tomorrow. It’s been  almost eight-and-half years since I held her for the first time, since I said “hello” to the little girl I only found out was a girl a few minutes earlier. Almost eight-and-a-half years since we named her and began imagining what her life would be like.

Some of it was pretty close. We knew about her cleft, and her upcoming surgery, and the possibilities of more problems and more procedures in the future. But we didn’t know about her apraxia of speech, or the years or therapy it would entail, or her future struggle with handwriting.

We also didn’t know how resilient she would be, how whip-smart, how funny, how outgoing, or how deeply thoughtful and caring about all of God’s creatures.

At a coastal viewpoint

Photo: Julia Ozab

She’s bloomed into an amazing girl, and she is blooming into an amazing woman. And while it pains us to watch her grow up, knowing that each moment once past is gone forever, it fills us with joy to watch her blossom into the person she is becoming.

The person God imagined all along.

Five Minute Friday

She Likes to Write

Anna writes in her notebook.

Photo: David Ozab

My daughter likes to write. Obviously, this makes me happy. I’m a writer, and whether or not she follows my path, I want her to share in my love of words and language. The important part is that she likes to write.

Writing is a challenge for her. Not because she lacks words. She loves to read and has a big vocabulary for a child her age. It’s a challenge because she struggles to write clearly. And for a while, the struggle discouraged her.

Not anymore.

She doesn’t just write for herself now. She writes for us too. A few weeks ago, when her favorite football team—the Seattle Seahawks, were playing Julia’s favorite team—the New Orleans Saints—in the NFC playoffs, Anna walked up to Julia’s desk and dropped off a note.

Dear Mom,

Go Seahawks!

From ?

A short note, but a big deal for Anna.

“Who wrote this?” Julia asked.

“I don’t know.” Anna replied.

“Well who else calls me ‘Mom’?”

A few minutes later, Anna returned with a second note.

Dear Anna’s Mom,

Seahawks will win!

From ?

Since then, she’s been writing a lot more. Little notes for us. Schedules for her day. Even a song for her make-believe dog Betty.

Howloooo howooool oooooo howlooo!

Little things, but she’s using her imagination. As as her handwriting and typing both improve, she’s sure to discover the limitless possibilities of her own words.

I can’t wait.

Five Minute Friday

Writing Another Santa List

Anna reads her list to Santa

Photo: Santa’s Helper

Another year, another Santa list.

Anna wrote her own for the first time last year. It was a challenge, given her difficulties with handwriting, but it was a fairly short list and she did okay.

This year, she had a longer list. We didn’t mind. She went though a very tough year—losing our bunnies and moving to a new school—and she has handled it all well.  She wrote her list out all by herself and every word was legible. We figure Santa will be as proud of her as we are, and will gladly bring her everything she wants.

  • A barbie jet or a barbie cruise ship.
  • A jewelry-making kit.
  • Daisy or Trixie (both Fur Real Friends® pets).
  • An Anna and Elsa doll (from the movie Frozen).
  • A pogo stick.
  • A remote-controlled car.
  • Toy Story DVDs
  • A Hot Wheels track set.
  • A Little Mermaid or Frozen play set.
  • Lincoln Logs.

“That’s a sackful!” I said as we waited in line.

“I gave Santa choices.” she replied. “Maybe half a sack.”

“No, I think that sack’s gonna be full.”

It took almost two hours, and she was so patient. When it was finally her turn, she stepped right up, sat next to Santa, and read her list.

Her speech has come so far in the last few years, and her handwriting has improved so much in just the last few months. Watching her, we were both so proud.

Yeah, that sack’s gonna be full.

Read about Anna’s first Christmas list (from 2008) here.

Tell Me About Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia writing sample.

Handwriting with dysgraphia (Image: Alyssa L. Crouch and Jennifer J. Jakubecy)

I’ve been writing about childhood apraxia of speech a lot on this blog over the last month, and I’ve received some great responses from parents of children struggling with this difficult motor-speech disorder. But many “apraxia kids” deal with more than apraxia. Often there are other issues that accompany it. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to talk about some of these other challenges, starting with one that Anna has struggled with since she entered school …

Dysgraphia

We weren’t sure what to expect when we met Anna’s first grade teacher for our one and only scheduled parent-teacher conference last year. We had heard little  beyond biweekly emails up to that point. Anna brought home regular reading homework, and was one of the best readers in her class, but we had no idea how she was doing in other subjects, particularly handwriting, which she had always struggled with.

Her teacher showed us a variety of schoolwork Anna had completed, commenting on her progress, and then she handed us Anna’s journal.

“This is some of Anna’s writing.”

Page after page of loops, scribbles, and swirls. A cipher without a key. All at once it was four years ago—Anna pleading to be understood, and us unable to understand.

Awaem oobie ees.

Then in speech and now on paper. The scribbles and swirls were the consonants that all sounded alike, the loops were the vowels that flattened into an indistinct “uh.” The lines on the page were like unraveling spools of barbed wire, blocking us from our daughter’s words.

And after four years of struggling to be heard, she had to start all over again. We added occupational therapy to her IEP, and a young girl who’d faced so many obstacles now had one more to overcome.

So much weight on such small shoulders. Like so many kids dealing with one or more of the interconnected aspects of dyspraxia.

As her parents, we had questions. Maybe you are asking yourself the same ones.

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