Words Without Meaning ~ What Dyslexia Feels Like

The air was dry and hot as it usually is in California on a sunny October day. Recess was over and the third-grade classroom was full of sweaty bodies. The sound of squeaky desks slamming and children laughing echoed throughout the room. I never really felt a part of it, though.

I don't know why they waited to tell me, perhaps they were afraid. How does a parent break it to a nine-year-old child that she has dyslexia? I know now that they didn't tell me because they didn't know. I remember being taken to specialist after specialist. I remember having my eyes checked and my deep wish that a simple pair of glasses would fix it all.

I'm not upset with my parents for the way they did tell me, for it was kind and full of love. I do wish, however, that there could have been some way they could of helped me to understand. We waited a year to know of my learning disability; because of this I spent a year of not understanding myself in a time when differences were not easily excepted.

Mrs. Spencer and I on the last day of school.
"Bring your spelling books to the rug, class," Mrs. Spencer announced over the commotion. Mrs. Spencer was a tall woman with a kind smile, and was always singing or humming. She seemed to have a constant spring in her step. I liked the teacher, but I hated third-grade.  I always felt sick to my stomach. The very thought of school made me ill. When my mother would wake me each morning for school, I would wake up crying. I was afraid. I was different. I was made fun of.

I'll never forget that day the students went to the rug, because it was the first time I was truly classified as different. Mrs. Spencer came to me and told me that I didn't have to go because I didn't have the same spelling work. I had my reading and writing lessons at the Resource Lab in the mornings. The lab was in a trailer at the end of the kindergarten playground. Through the large windows of our third-grade room we could see the edge of the trailer and a good half of the small lawn. The specialist would come in the back door of the classroom and and walk with me to the lab.

As we would walk along the edge of the lawn, past the class windows, I could feel all my classmate's eyes following us. The side of the building was lined with rocks that crunched under our feet.  I looked down at them so I would not have to see the children's faces. That was the first time I decided to be invisible.

Back in the classroom, my desk was on the very end of a cluster of desks, and I was careful to keep the pencil drawings on it as black as I could. It was always upsetting when I was forced to wash the desk; hours of work down the drain. Now I stared long and hard at these drawings as the class passed me on the way to the rug with their treasured spelling books. I thought, or hoped that if I concentrated hard enough I really would be invisible. But they did see me, and they new why I wasn't getting a spelling book out of my desk. It was as if they could see straight through the rust painted metal of my lone desk. They knew I didn't even have a speller.

Could they see me struggling that first day we had them? Could they see the words in my brain shattering like glass until I could no longer tell they had meaning at all? Could they see the shards cutting my fingertips as I tried to follow along? Did they know I couldn't read?

Now could my classmates see the wall I was building with their words as they passed me on the way to the rug? "Lucky," they whispered. "Why?" they asked. "Stupid," they teased, but worst of all, and the one that still calls out to me like the cries of a wolf pack circling their pray in the night, "Retarded!" So there I sat alone in my desk building my walls, as I drew.

I didn't know words then. I didn't know one book or poem or play.  I lived in a silent world. I could speak like anyone else, but as I sat at my desk and looked at that spelling book on that first day they were handed out, all I could see was defeat. The words meant something, but what? What was I supposed to do? It bored me. My head hurt to try; to make sense out of it. And so I drew.

My classmates read on and on as pages flew by. It was as thought it were easy. I looked back at the page. Surly I missed something. Maybe I'll see it this time. A picture, a sign, some kind of clue. What was I doing? Nothing, just words.

Mrs. Spencer sat at her desk. I turned and looked at her. She looked up. I turned back around. "How much longer must I sit here?" She must have felt my pain, because just as quickly as I had found that red and yellow book on my drawing pencils, it was gone. "Kristen, you don't need to do this, we'll find something else for you to do," she apologized. It was almost like she had made a mistake by giving me the book. She seemed to have forgotten something.

What does she mean? Why don't I get the spelling book? What was in it? What made me so different? Then all of a sudden that dreadful book that I hated to think about became a desired book and without it I was a stranger. I was different!

My parents didn't tell me about my learning disability until the following May. After a long year of testing. The next school year I changed schools and started a new life. With the knowledge that I needed a new learning strategy, I blossomed. Things were finally starting to be explained in a way that made since. Although it wasn't until I was a sophomore in college and I had a tutor who really helped reading click. I don't know if it was my age, or the simple instruction that I had never had before.

But even now, when I here children make fun, or someone implies, that malicious word calls back to me soft and cold from a nine-year-old's mouth, "Retarded."


The San Diego Tragedy ~ My Idea For a New Reality Show

We did the City Pass for Southern California. We spent Christmas with Grandparents and then had three amazing days in Disneyland.

The City Pass was less expensive then just getting the Three Day Disney Passes so our trip included the three days in Disneyland, a day at Sea World in San Diego and a day at Universal Studios in LA.

Sea World 2006
We went to all the shows in Sea World and took pictures. We got some fun pictures of the Kids petting a Dolphin. We were enjoying the sunshine and the day in all, when tragedy struck. I very stupidly hung my camera on the hook in a bathroom stall instead of putting it back in my backpack where it belonged. I walked out of the bathroom and never saw it again.

We filled out a lost and found report. But the camera was never turned in.

Once we had come to the awful realization that it was gone, my husband took the kids on a ride, while I waited with Bunny who was asleep in the stroller.  I was alone, I sat on a curb and cried. No, I balled my eyes out. We lost so much when we lost that camera. So many fun memories.

As I have mentioned before, we LOVE Disneyland. But this year we wanted to go to Disneyland because our toddler LOVES Pooh. 

We all wanted to see that special moment when she meets the caricatures for the first time.  It was darling. As she waited in line she was so impatient to get to her turn, but when the moment came, she became shy. 

She met Tigger first. He bent down and put his hands out,  she crept up to him and kissed him on the nose. We took family pictures and sweet pictures of just Bunny hugging Eeyor and Tigger and Pooh. 

We have pictures of her amazement with the It's A Small World ride and in the same shot, the boredom of Daddy who was holding her. I have similar shots of Daddy holding the other kids on that ride, and each one is special to me.

As I sat on that curb and cried, I cried for all those sweet memories. 

It wasn't until we got back to Montana that I thought of the Reality Show idea. While we were in a grocery store parking lot, someone came up to me and asked if this was my wallet. She had found a wallet left in a shopping cart! What a difference! Was it the place? Or the item lost? Was it because a bathroom stall is so secluded? No one would know? Or has no one taught their kids to turn stuff in! To try and find the owner, to do the right thing?? Are we just living by the rule of "finders keepers?"

But what if you were watching this all on TV? What if you could see the sorrow of the woman crying on the sidewalk in Sea World? And what if you could see the person in the bathroom stall? What if, on the show, when an item of value is found and the finder does turn it in, they won a prize? A big cool prize, like a trip to Hawaii! Of course if they didn't turn it in, then they got the camera, or whatever the program used as bait. And they got to be humiliated on TV, even if their face was blurred out. Watching that on TV would get people thinking, "What would I do?" 

What if? 

What would you do?

Now luckily for us, Disneyland takes pictures of you meeting the caricatures, and you can go on line and buy them. For a lot of money. We bought some. But sadly, Sea World wasn't on the ball with the shots of us. We don't have any pictures of that day. The picture at the top, of the Killer Whale is from our trip in 2006 when we did a City Pass as well.

And we have memories in our hearts. 


The Rain In Disney and Other Stuff

We had a great three days in Disneyland with the rest of Southern California. It was pretty crazy, but we loved it. 

Except the part when we lost our nine year old in the crowd. I had finally started seeking out a "Cast Member" to report our missing child when my oldest daughter spotted her with an older couple who were trying to help her find us. She was in tears. It was horrid! We made sure that even the big kids had hands to hold after that!

The last day it rained. This ended up being a blessing as it was a Saturday and yet the park seemed very empty. We had anticipated it and I had on my rain pants and jacket when we boarded the boats of the Jungle Cruise. I was so glad! The seat I sat on was right where the water kept filling in the roof and with every turn of the boat I got a bucket full in my lap, on my head and down my back. But I  was perfectly dry! I can't say the same for the poor people next to me!
We sought shelter in Turtle Talk with Crush after that. We took a couple of drawing lessons and by the time we were done, the rain was gone the sky was blue and the crowds were history.

We headed for San Diego after that.


A Circus and The Pass

Donor's Pass

Donor's Pass. If you know your history lessons then you know that Donor's Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains can bring on hardship. You might even be forced to eat your kids. Well, if you were early pioneers crossing it on foot in the dead of winter. But in our SUV, it's quite harmless. Unless it's closed for the night. Which it was. 

When we arrived in Reno we could have made it to family's house with no problem and even through the storm without a second thought, if there had been a storm, which there wasn't in Nevada. But the Pass Police felt that most of the California Drivers weren't experienced enough to get though so they closed it that night. 

We stayed at Circus Circus. This seemed fitting for our own Circus Act.

The buffet was way more expensive than we remembered it as kids. But our kids seem to think it was the "most fancy place they had ever stayed in." But while we were staying in the supper fancy hotel room with the acrobat paintings and the contortionists in the Midway, our little Bunny learned that hotel room doors are really easy to open! YIKES! Thank goodness for the latch at the top of the door! 

LA trafic. 
Our doors at home are hard to open, they have to be, or the 50 mph winds would be beating them down daily. We weren't prepared for our own little Houdini to put on a show of her own! Sadly, this was just the beginning of her disappearing reappearing acts! 

We made it home in the early afternoon on Christmas Eve in spite of the Holiday travelers who also were trying to get home for Christmas. We had a wonderful holiday with sisters and cousins and nieces and Grandma and Papa. 

The day after Christmas we headed South with the rest of the State of California. And on to Anaheim.


Our Vacation Mishaps ~ I'm SO Vain

I mentioned that we have been on vacation. It was wonderful. So many fun memories. But have you ever noticed that when things go wrong, it's hard to focus the great stuff? People keep asking me how the trip was and all I want to share is the scary, freaky, sad stuff… even though we had a wonderful time! I try not to be a Downer. But somethings just need to be documented.

First. I forgot my toilet kit. It's more of a medicine cabinet. I take lots of vitamins as well as prescriptions. And since I knew I wasn't going to get my spinach shakes on the trip, I took even more vites with me than I usually do at home…. or at least I packed more. I didn't actually bring them. I also take a thyroid med and my my MS shots and birth control pill…. All of which were left in my toilet kit on my bedroom floor.

I did put it right next to my bed! So I wouldn't forget it. But since I got up before my husband and didn't want to wake him, I never turned on the lights, I grabbed my clothes and changed in the bathroom down the hall and never went back to my room. Oh well.

Luckily, we, who live in the middle of nowhere, were going to the city where everything is available. Our first stop was to spend the night at my Husband's sister's house and she lives just minutes from a Walmart. How would that be??? To live just minutes form a store??? Instead of having to drive 80 miles one way to get to a Walmart? Just WOW!

They didn't have many of my more obscure supplements that I get at a health food store, but I got the basics. I didn't want to go vitamin deficient on our trip. That would have resulted in massive cold and flu for me. Luckily, My two weeks of pill packs didn't all fit in my toilet kit so I had put the 2nd week my suit case. I took the regular meds every other day and the few other store bought vitamins the other days.

We weren't staying anywhere long enough to warrant a call to the doctor for refills and we didn't ever know where the closest pharmacist would be.

The sad thing was, the side effects of not having my thyroid meds means I lost half my head of hair! Luckily I do have a lot of hair. But still!!! I now can put a hair band around a ponytail three times! Whereas before, if I tried that I would have never been able to get it out… Oh well. It will grow back! …I guess…


Our Spoiled Family ~Confessions of a Disney Crazy Mama

Ok, we have been out of town. I haven't been a very good blogger. I'm sorry! I will try and do better. 


We have come to the conclusion that our kids are very spoiled….. 

Here's why:

January 2006

December 2006

December 2007
(I'm sporting the baby bump!)

January 2009

December 2011

December 2012

We sure do like our disney vacations! 
But I think it's fun to see the kids grow up with disney. 
Once we experienced the wonder of sharing it with our own kids, 
we kind of couldn't get enough of it. 


My Mitochondria ~ The Wahls Diet Follow Up

Awhile back I mentioned I was on a new diet. Only I call it a "program" with the intent of not drawing too much negative attention to body image (I am the mother of girls, after all). The purpose of this particular "program" was to see if the foods I eat can really affect my MS. I was diagnosed with Relapsing-Remiting Multiple Sclerosis in January of 1998 but I had suffered from symptoms as early as 1995 and I had an extreme lose of energy in 1993.

All information in this post is from this book. Get it. Read it.
It just might change your life!
This past summer season here at the ranch, we had an employee who also has MS and she had so much energy and was in such good health, I wanted to know her secret. (Granted, she didn't have 4 kids one of which still only sleeps in two hour spurts, and 2 more of whom still wake up with bad dreams and what not!) Because she was a seasonal employee, she doesn't have health insurance and thus doesn't take medications. She was however on a very strict diet. She lent me her book.

The concept of the Wahls diet is that our diets are seriously lacking in micronutrients and therefor our mitochondria, our brain cells, are starving. Once our cells become so malnutrition they can't fight off the toxins they naturally produce, they will in fact die. Our country, the USA, is suffering from massive chronic diseases that are infecting younger and younger generations. Eating more fruits and vegetables helps nearly every chronic disease, including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Why wouldn't it help neurological disorders too?

Dr. Wahls underwent several changes in the start of her pursuit to treat her MS. Oh yea, did I mention that this is a Doctor who has MS herself, and all traditional medical treatments weren't offering her any help. In fact, her MS progressed from Relapsing-Remiting to Progressive MS in just a matter of years. Further more, the majority of relapsing-remitting MS patients will convert to secondary progressive MS within 25 years. 80% of them in the first 15 years. Like I said, I've had it for 17+ years!

Dr. Wahls quotes Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician, who said, "Let good, wholesome food be thy medicine." And so this is what I am attempting to do. I am still on my medication (Don't worry, Dad!). I give myself a shot every night. Although I do forget to do it, a lot… My physician sees the good of vitamins and prescribes 5000 IU of vitamin D but the body will absorb and use the vitamins  and minerals so much more efficiently if they are consumed naturally. Like through food.

My breakfast: veggie stir fry with ham and hemp seeds,
fresh tomato, with spinach and kale shake made with
coconut milk, cocoa, and cinnamon
Dr. Wahls recommends 9 cups of vegetables a day. I know, Right? I don't even think I eat that much food in a day!

She says 5 cups of green leafy veg and 4 cups of colored veg. Our pediatrician says to eat a rainbow a day. I love that!

We already eat lots of salads at our house so this wasn't really a stretch. The other aspect of the "program" is that some foods might even be contributing to the MS symptoms and so she recommends an elimination diet. Just as you would do to determine allergies. I have often gone on the South Beach Diet to loose the weight after each baby, and the first few weeks of that "program" is to wean your body of sugar cravings. You drop grains, fruits and of course, sugar. I have always felt the healthiest while on that program, so the idea of wheat gluten being a trigger for me was not far fetched.

The first three things she recommends eliminating are gluten, eggs and dairy.

So far I have eliminated gluten completely and have done so since October of 2012. Over thanksgiving however I allowed myself a roll, the recipe I shared here, and a small helping of stuffing. We had thanksgiving with a friend and her stuffing was so amazing; made from scratch with french bread and sausage. I was in heaven. Oh, and I did have some gravy. I enjoyed the leftovers the next day aswell. But that night I woke to find the whole left side of my face had gone numb. In general, my fingers are always tingly and my lips do tingle when I eat certain things. So I believe there is another food aspect out there. It makes it easy to pass the bread, however, when my personal health is at stake. Not to mention I've lost over 10 pounds in the first two months!

So that's the update on my eating. As I learn more I will keep you posted. Also, I am excited to try some of my old standby dishes with alternative flours. I will share them once they turn out… so far, they aren't quite there yet.

I am not a food blogger, but I know my family wanted to know about my strange eating habits and so I thought I would share.