Monday, September 9, 2019

Why Do I Rock My Red Shoes?

Today is International Fetal Alcohol Awareness Day.  I am rocking my Red Shoes.
Our logo says "Start the Conversation... Ask me"  FASD  Red Shoes Rock.

Why do I rock my Red Shoes?

For my children who were born affected by prenatal alcohol exposures.
For all children who have yet to be born with FASD.
For all the families who are raising children with FASD
For all the children who have yet to be diagnosed with FASD.
For all the adults who are living with FASD.
For all the adults who do not know that they have FASD.
For all the individuals who have a lifetime of medical and chronic illnesses because of FASD.
For all those who are supporting those with FASD
For all the teachers and schools who do not know how to help children who have FASD.
For all the communities who do not know how to help children & families who are affected by FASD
For all the medical and mental health professionals who need to know about FASD.
For all the researchers who are trying to find answers to help those with FASD.
For all the systems that have yet to find supports for those with FASD
For all the governments that need to learn so that they can support those with FASD.
For the world to wake up to the knowledge about FASD
For my daughter who died because she had FASD.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

You can Create your Red Shoes Rock Gear at Thirty One Gifts LLC

Last year I learned about how to make Red Shoes Rock Gear at Thirty One Gifts.  I rock my Red Shoes while I carry my catch all bag with all Mac's gear and while grocery shopping and more.

I posted a picture of my bag the other day as Mac and I headed to his medical appointment in the city.  A couple of people asked me where I got it from.  Finally I have time to sit down and blog the instructions!

First go to and find a consultant near you.  If you do not know of a consultant you can always support my friend Katy Pitzen, Lancaster WI. She has a medically fragile daughter and I want to support her in her business.

The bag is the Crossbody Organizing Tote
Charcoal Crosshatch  $38.00    Plus Personalization is $10.00

Find the Crossbody Organizing Tote Charcoal Crosshatch.
Select Personalization

Now it will ask you to personalize your tote.

Click on the Charcoal Crosshatch

Then Click on 2.

Scroll down until you find the blue Tennis Shoes. Click on it. 

Then the Design Color button will pop up.  Change it to Red. 

Click 3 to do the text for the bag.
Fill in the box for the text:  Red Shoes Rock
Then pick the color of the thread:  White
Then pick the font you want to use. I used Chalkboard.

Then it will pop up the sample of your bag.
Click 4 and save your design to your shopping cart.

You did it!  You created your own Red Shoes Rock Logo Awareness Gear

I hope that you got it to work for you!

If you have any questions.  Let me know by commenting on the post.

My other favorite is my Large Utility Tote- Gray Crosshatch  Item Code:  3121   $35.00   

It is perfect for grocery shopping or heading out wear you need to carry a lot like the beach or a picnic.  For me it is my carry-all for heading out to raise awareness about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome with all my gear!

I can Rock My Red Shoes and also Rock my Red Gear all year!


Friday, June 7, 2019

End of the School Year: Mom Tears of Joy and We Got It Right!

Curious Cat Award for always being full of curiosity about the world.

In my history of parenting children with special needs for over two decades, the end of school usually means the end of meltdowns, the struggles of my children being misunderstood and the constant educating and fights for services and accommodations for their educations.  I looked forward for school  ending and having a blessed summer of no stress.  I could work on building back up their self esteems that were by the end of the school year bottomed out.

This year is different.   I do not want second grade to end.  I just put Mac on the bus to school for his last day.  His last day is met with this Mom's tears and sobbing.  This is surprising me.   Who would have ever thought that I hated for school to end?   I do not want this year to end.

Mac and Friends
Where do I begin to share just how amazing this school year has been for Mac.  Mac has fetal alcohol syndrome and was adopted from the foster care system here in our state.  They said he would never, this, never that.  Prematurity and at l7 months he was hanging onto life by a thread when he came to us.  As a veteran parent of medically complex children Mac entered our lives.  He would show us and teach us something every day.  My biggest fear for him was that school would not be able to  meet his complex needs and he would grow up lonely and friendless as I had seen happen to so many other children in school settings.

Mac and his friend who has been at his side since Kindergarten

This year I have seen a team and a school that believes in my child. They got it right. They got to see beyond the wheelchair, beyond the anxiety and beyond the lack of being able to talk to see and know my Mac. He has friends, he has teachers who accommodate him and find ways to access what he knows. I have seen a team of teachers, paraprofessional, therapists, office staff, and administration go out of their way to help us get it right for Mac and for other students. I have seen friends surround and understand him and fill in the gaps for him. They know he struggles to stand, they stand behind him and support him to be included with everything. They know they do not have to have him answer to be part of the conversation. They talk to him and often ask Furry for the answer. The children truly care for him and his team taught class is appropriately called the "The Second Grade Dream Team".

Mackie and friends 
Dreams did come true in that class this year.  The dream that children can learn, no matter the challenge.  The dream that everyone is included.  The dream that everyone will have a friend. The dream that he has teachers who care and love him.  A paraprofessional that knows him and his challenges and steps up everyday to help him soar and learn to the best of her ability. To the team that came together every month to share ideas, strategies to keep improving on the IEP and how to accommodate his complex needs.  To the special education director that saw a need and bought the stairlifts to plan for emergencies to get our children safely out of the building. The approved the Matt Connect magnification device so he could see the classroom and his materials.  His homebound teacher who teaches here every afternoon after him spending his morning in the school.  So much more, AT evaluations and the equipment,  even his special toileting chair for use at school, new curriculum with the ability to be able to be read for him and accommodate so many more students with meaningful learning. The special busing and everything it takes for Mac to shine. Thank you to the school district for doing what is needed and stretching and thinking out of the box for children like Mac.

Mac is shining and he has shown them that he can learn, he can think, he can be accommodated with this typical peers with giving him the tools and accommodations to reach those goals. Mac is determined and will measure up to the goals we set when we get it right.  We got it right and he has shown us that with his new curriculum that he has comprehension skills at the top of his class.
This is the same child who they only saw the disability,  not the ability not too long in the past. They saw the little boy in a wheelchair off to the side, flapping and flailing, non-verbal silently just existing.  The team saw him in our home, they saw who he could be and together we figured out how to help him shine and grow at school.  Thank you all for believing in Mac.

The Second Grade Dream Team
I sit here writing as tears fall. Everyone who knows me knows that this MOM has tears of happiness and for good things.  My PTSD from years of systems trauma, means that I have more HAPPY tears of HOPE and JOY and more determination to get it right this time.  Tears that Mac soared and he has what it takes for him to shine!

All it takes is a little help and accommodation
Today I write that Second grade will never be forgotten.  This is the year that I finally saw a school get it right. Yes we had bumps in the road, but those little bumps are normal and if we did not have those bumps, we wouldn't have been doing our jobs and stretching the schooling and experiences for Mac.   For the first time ever, I am sad for the end of the school year to come. But also celebrating that we got it right.  

Friends and true inclusion
We got it right! We did it for Mac and he soared. And a little stuffed penguin was part of the classroom and even a part of the yearbook because he was in the IEP.  Thinking out of the box and doing what it took for a young boy to learn and most of all be apart of the school and valued.

We would have never imagined Mac being able to go to school for a full day.  He has made the whole day the last Friday and today he will walk/roll out of the building with his friends after a whole day of end of the year celebration.  He will be there to say goodbye until next time to his friends and celebrate the last day of school.  He could have never done it without having the supports he needed to shine and thrive.  People believing in him and friends.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible.  And for going the extra mile to help Mackie make sure that his friends could make it to his Mackie's Movie Nights at our local movie theater.
This is a year of dreams come true, friendships, empowerment and memories that will last a lifetime.

And to you Mac you did it ! You taught us all more than we could ever teach you!
You Rock and we are so very, very proud of you.


Friday, May 3, 2019

Celebrating School: What We Got Right Day 2 Medical Home

The crisis of Becca's birth and medical complexity began in 1989 and her lengthy NICU stay would put us on the road to learning to Parenting Special Needs and the road to navigate the very new and challenging world of medical needs and school.

An improper unplanned discharge set up the first time I would have to face advocating to change the system.  My sister who was in medical administration made a phone call to the state talking about the lack of discharge planning for Becca after six months in the NICU. Twelve days of no sleep, no help and no lifeline, I was taking care of a child who still belonged in the Intensive Care unit alone and wthout any tools.

Heading in one day to visit Becca I was met with the social worker at bedside.  The hospital's quality control and administrative leads wanted to have a meeting where we talked about what happened and this Mom was scared.  Santa meeting Becca at bedside was the calming force before heading into the boardroom to tell the story of my twelve days home with Becca and answer the boards questions.

That meeting would not only change everything for Becca but would get Becca's primary nurse hired as the first NICU full time discharge planner.  The hospital would continue to set up and coordinate the home care that our new primary doctor had been trying to set up from home and that took Becca back to the hospital.

The hospital arranged to put together a Care Conference with all the people involved in Becca's care.

The Doctors, the Case workers from the county and the hospital (Waiver services were put into place), her Primary care physician, the Birth to Three services workers, the School District, the Nursing agency, the County Health Nurse and our Pastor from our church.  Thirty-four people to get Becca home and surround her with the care she and our family needed to be safely out of the hospital.  Planning for palliative care long before it was ever dreamed of being a concept.  We talked about what to do if she needed to go back to the hospital or heaven forbid she would die at home. A topic no parent would ever want to face. How to avoid a length Child Protective Service investigation that would endanger my other children from not only losing loosing their sister, but their family while they awaited the results of the autopsy that would clear us of any wrong doing.  They had seen stories of other children being removed from the home after the death of a critically ill sibling.  I learned that the CPS system is there to protect kids but sometimes it just doesn't get things right.  Children who die at home it is always someones fault.  We had to make plans for just that circumstance, because they thought the professionals had little hope of survival.  But on the flip side they worked on goals for her development, goals to continue to music therapy that I had started at bedside within 24 hours of being in the NICU.

Becca was fortunate to be born shortly after Katie Beckett opened the doors to getting our kids out of the hospital and home.  A waiver of funding based on Becca's income only brought Becca home and the supports she needed to be there.   Becca was blessed to qualify one of Minnesota's 200 waivers for children and adults who needed to be at home at Intensive care level needing hours of RN level nursing and that was provided by the pediatric nursing agency Caregivers Network.  They coordinated the care at the hospital and even had the main nurses train while she was still in the Pediatric Intensive Care unit.  Care coordination at its best.

IFSP   my first experience a school acronym and my first meeting within the educational system.  I was invited to be a team member to help creating an Individualized Family Support Plan  for Becca's education at 6 months of age.   Becca once home would start having the physical therapists, teacher from the school both coming to our home.  School at home with a tiny baby.  She was in her own environment and the nurses and I and her siblings all included in helping Becca learn and shine.

Becca was blessed with a Medical HOME already back in 1990 after advocacy that not only gave Becca her freedom to be home, but the tools she and our family needed to SHINE.

Thank you Children's Hospital of St. Paul for the gift of thinking out of the box and creating a Medical Home for Becca and being apart of her care for the first 7 years of her life.  Thank you to all the systems that came together to make that happen.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Counting Down the School Year: Day 1 Celebrating What We Got Right

31 Days of Stories of School Success

I have been a parent of children with special needs for a very very long time.  With my tribe of a dozen unique children and we have struggled, but we also have found out of the box thinking to accommodate some of their very unique needs.

Too often we talk about all the problems and struggles we have with schools and our children with differing abilities, but rarely we celebrate what is working.  We as parents finding ourselves in the isolating world of "fighting" the schools, trying to advocate for our kids outnumbered by the professionals that sit across the table.  We are up against the wall and seriously the ongoing stretching of parents and families to get the unique Individualized Education Plan that was promised, a challenge for all with time, resources and lack of knowledge to help our most vulnerable children.

As a parent I have had to become well-versed in IEP and 504 plan laws, advocating and not crying at IEPs, going to trainings and attending webinars over these now over two decades with this tribe of mine and learning to help parents advocate for their children.  We see all the posts of the social media about IEP parents and the meetings from H.e. hockey sticks.  School professionals talk about the failures of the family, parents not doing their parts.  Schools blaming the family, family blaming the schools.  The divisiveness fueled by frustration, by lack of funding and most of all the uniqueness of our children and their failure to fit in the box of school.

I need to get back to writing after finishing my latest project and here goes my crazy idea.  Too many times we only hear the negative stories, I am challenging myself for the countdown to the end of the school year to write stories celebrating "What We Did Right."

Day 1 Kindergarten Hooky

Looking back, my children on one end of the bell curve, was just the preparation for my children who would come into our family on the other with their differing abilities that do not fit in the box.

For me it all began with when my daughter came home from Kindergarten early 35 years ago and it was not time for the school bus to arrive, I learned very quickly that schools struggle with our out of the box children.  My daughter was bored and a phone call to the school saying that my Kindergartener had been playing "hooky" and had spent the day hiding in the garage reading a chapter book instead of going to school and  that school was boring and for babies.  17 days of missing school and it was only October.  Tummy aches, vomiting and her behavior was telling me something that I was missing.  That day was the lightbulb moment, she could finally tell me in her little 5 year old wise way, school did not fit.

I was 'just' a Mom with 4 children under 6 and not knowing what is normal or typical.  Was it normal for kids to read before kindergarten?  Talk before she could walk?  One day while sitting in the bathroom when she was two, she asked me about times.  I said, "Clock times?"  She replied, "No Mommy, the x with the numbers and the equals sign."  Thinking,  "How do I explain this to a two year old?  Two two times."  She piped up 4.  Then moving on through the lower facts three three times.  She replied "3, 6, 9 Mommy!"  That is when my two year old mastered addition and in less than 15 minutes could do all the facts through the 6s.

A phone call to the school counselor, explaining my daughter's day of playing hooky, listened carefully and then said "Mrs. Yurcek, you are describing a child who is far ahead of the other children and we have a speaker tonight at a parent meeting coming into the school district.  Could you come to the school at 7 and hear the psychologist talk about 'gifted children'.   This Mom was the slow learner on this lesson.

My husband and I found a sitter for our littles and left for our first adventure into the world of special needs education. As the psychologist talked about all the traits of gifted children, we just nodded our heads and looked at each other with understanding that we had one of those kids.

After the meeting, we stopped and talked with him and made arrangements the following day for him to privately pay to test our eldest daughter.   Well, it went on the credit card, as we lived paycheck to paycheck. The results surprising she was definitely gifted but her learning years ahead of her classmates. His recommendation was to skip her ahead two years, but the school district would not agree and placed her in an inclusive gifted classroom.  They felt gifted kids needed to be with their peers and in their appropriate grades.  In the classroom the teachers were trained to teach to their individual strengths and challenge the students while teaching the required curriculum.

She was still bored, but I learned to teach her at home and follow her strength based learning.  Garage sales found the math workbooks and textbooks that she would challenge herself with.  She found friendship with other kids who were like herself. She had a social world of school, an important piece of learning was to get along with others.

We were blessed to have been in an out of the box forward thinking school district and a move to a new home at 3rd grade had her missing her friends, bored, and struggling with headaches.  I knew I needed to do something and the times were opening the doors to out of district enrollments.  I pulled the kids from our home district and back to the smaller school district with the gifted program that my daughter and some of her siblings needed.

But as with any out of the box child, we had our struggles.  Work was mundane, repetitive and she would argue with the teacher when she felt they were wrong. She loved to debate the answers on tests to challenge the teachers thinking.  By the way, some teachers do not like kids who speak up and prove them wrong.  I found myself in the principals office a few times advocating for my outspoken daughter.  And her grades would show us what subjects and learning she felt valuable.

I became Mom and bus driver, making multiple trips to the schools for my growing family.  You do whatever it takes for our kids educations.  The school would work with us to diagnose my youngest sons dyslexia and the head of the special education department told me that it was very common for gifted children to have learning challenges.  Any child who does well in Math and cannot read, there is a problem.

Time would go on and now those children are grown, making it to places I never believed possible.  My daughter a Vice President of a major corporation.  Her bossiness and out of the box thinking took her to the top, she challenges herself and if it becomes mundane she has to move up to the next challenge.  My son who is dyslexic is working in insurance and project management, his understanding of himself and modern technology has helped level the playing field for him to do his job well.   They all have found their ways, but school was just part of the journey.  It was out of the box thinking, working with the schools and teaching and nurturing their strengths.

One day talking with my daughter, apologizing for not being able to afford to send her to the private schools that she needed. She told me "Mom you did the best you could and you allowed me to be social and be with the other kids and that helped me understand how to deal with people in the world."

I learned that having children who are gifted is a challenge of its own, just another kind of special needs student.  We now have advanced placement and other courses in high school, but now Kindergarteners are reading doing challenging learning but on the flip side, most children are not developmentally ready for those learning challenges.

I learned to let my children play, learn, challenge themselves, and nuture their strengths and they do grow.  I learned that it was my job to advocate, reach out and ask questions and partner with our teachers and schools to find and create out of the box learning opportunities.   And when it wasn't working to think out of the box and find or create what they needed to shine.

A special Thank You to Spring Lake Park School District in Minnesota for your part in my children's educational success.