Monday, November 27, 2017

Chance meets his soul mate

Chance is 17. Since that is the case, there are certain things that Chance spends time and money on. One is the truck we let him use as his own. It is like 100 years old, but he loves that thing like it is a person.  When Chance goes out with friends, many times he volunteers to drive. His friends have newer cars, but Chance has his bestie the truck and prefers to be with it whenever he can.

Then there are of course girls. Chance has a great group of friends and they have employed some darling ideas for date dances. The next one coming up, is the sweater swing in December. Chance, his date and another other couple will go to a a neighboring thrift store where the girls will pick out sweaters for the boys to wear to the dance, and the boys will pick out sweaters for the girls to wear. This should make for interesting wardrobe choices.

The third thing that Chance spends a lot of time thinking about are headphones. He has been on the hunt for a good pair that works for him while he is at work. He has tried all of the headphones we have at home, and they have worked but not well.  Granted, we don't usually spend oodles of money on our headphones here.  We like headphones, and we like music, but investing in expensive headphones has just not been something that we have done.

Well today, Chance found his headphone soulmate. They work well with his implants, he can dial the base setting on the back and the sound that comes through is literally music to his bionic ears. These headphone usually cost about $200.00, but it was a return so he got them for $50.00. He says it was more than worth it. They are the Skullcandy Crusher wireless headphones. Apparently, we could all use some to make us smile. That is what Chance has been doing since he got home with them.

The only downside to these headphones that I can see, is that we may never be able to talk to Chance again since he is walking around the house listening to music and can't hear a thing we are saying.
Chance's headphone soulmate. Can be used with or without the wire. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sending Our Deaf Kids Into the Woods

We drove up into the mountains to chop down our Christmas tree this past weekend. It may seem a bit early for that sort of thing, but we realized that someone in the family is busy for the next several weekends, so rather than risk not being able to go up together, we headed up on Saturday.

Our family is divided on when Christmas music should be played....some of us feel that Christmas music is only appropriate after Thanksgiving. Other family members welcome Christmas music anytime. Chance feels that after Thanksgiving is appropriate, and Ammon likes it anytime. So on our hour drive up to the mountains, there was much discussion about what kind of music we should be listening to.

We didn't head to our regular spot that we usually go to. We decided to try a new area. It was beautiful. Mountain air, green pines stretching up on either side and family. It was a good mix.
The weather was not very cold and hiking through the trees we found a little bit of snow, but not too much, which is good because one of the kids forgot their snow boots.

Since we were new to the area, and we had to cut down a tree that was at least 200 feet off of the road, we decided that we should send Chance up ahead to scout out the trees and see if the kind we needed was present. There is one kind of tree that we are allowed to cut down, so we have to ensure that we know what we are getting. It is a sub alpine fir and it is mixed in with other kinds of trees across the mountain.

After we pulled off and parked the car, we pulled on our coats, gloves and boots. Chance and Ammon headed off and disappeared into the tree line where they quickly disappeared from view. It was at that moment that we realized that we had just sent our two deafies into the mountains and that it may be hard for them to hear us when we called. A bit funny how you think about these things after the fact.
Thankfully, Ammon found animal tracks and started yelling excitedly so we knew right where the two of them were and could hike up to them.

Chance brought his hatchet that he got at the mountain man rendezvous this past summer, and between that and the saw, getting our tree was fairly easy. We all took turns and Chance got to finish the job with his hatchet and call timber.

So now, our Christmas tree is sitting in our garage in a bucket of water. It needs to acclimate for a few days. Sometimes we have been a bit late in getting our Christmas tree up. Not this year! We'll have our tree up and ready by Thanksgiving.

Thankfully those mountain trees last for two months inside.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Chance presents his story

Chance and I participated in a panel this past week. First we presented our journey with deafness, diagnosis, and what mode of communication we chose. The audience was made up of students studying in fields related to working with deaf children. Audiologist speech therapists etc.  Several colleges listened in to the proceedings via technology. There were three other parents on the panel and each of us told our story. I have been presenting at this annual conference for years, but this is the first time that Chance participated.

Chance brought an invaluable insight into the meeting as he could talk about what the process was like as someone who is deaf. I presented the first part of our journey, Chance's diagnosis, the story of trying to Chance what he needed with a late diagnosis, and my thoughts and feelings. 
Chance presented after me and he talked about where he is now in life, how he felt about his deafness in school and how he feels about implants.
After all of the panel members presented their stories, the students could ask us questions.  The students wanted to know why we chose the communication option that we did, and what the hardest thing about the journey has been.
We chose hearing aids and cochlear implants for Chance because he made it clear that he wanted to talk. We all started learning sign language early on, but Chance never used sign language as his main form of communication. He used sign to supplement what he was saying sometimes, but the main way he tried to communicate with us was through talking. That doesn't mean that everything always went smoothly. We had  some struggles as Chance learned to talk and communicate. It has been so worth it though.
One of the students asked Chance how he was able to learn Mandarin with implants as her understanding is that it is a very tonal language.
Chance said that he applied the same principles that he had when he was learning to speak English. He said that in English you have to listen to the tones of people's voices to help know what they are saying. For example if people are asking a question their voices go up at the end. Chance really had to pay attention to things like this when he was behind in language and was literally learning how to listen.
Who knew the skills he developed when he was  focusing extra hard on learning English would later be the same skills that would help him learn Mandarin?
I remember how Chance would lift his voice at the end of a question when he was asking us something. Sometimes it was the only way we knew he was asking a question because we didn't understand all of his words. We knew he was asking a question by the way his voice went up at the end, but we didn't know what we were answering. 
After the presentation, Chance told me that this was the first time he had been able to effectively put into words how he learned how to speak Mandarin and explain the process to someone. 
Talking to the students and answering their questions is always a fun experience for me, It is nice to be able to talk about the experiences that families are having as they try to get the services they need for their deaf and hard of hearing children with people who will be working with the families. Chance enjoyed being able to share his journey and answer questions that people have as well. And who better to answer questions and talk about what it is like growing up deaf than a deaf teenager?

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Horse Riding Lessons

Ammon started horse back riding lessons a few weeks ago.  When we get to the barn where he rides horses, the first thing he does is round up the horse he is going to ride out in the field. He puts the bridle on, leads the horse into the barn, brushes him down and then puts on the saddle.

Since Ammon got to pick which horse he wanted to ride the first day he had lessons, he choose a big white one named Jack.

One of the requirements of the barn where Ammon has lessons, is that kids under 18 where a helmet while they ride horses.  As we looked at helmets to buy for Ammon,  we were lucky to find one that
sat on his head just right so that it doesn't bother his implant or hearing aid. His sister's helmet comes down further than Ammon's and is shaped a little differently and I think that one would have caused some trouble with the hearing devices. Ammon's helmet cost a bit more than his sister's did, but it was well worth it. He LOVES riding lessons.  The horse he rides is a BIG horse and that makes Ammon work a little to get into the saddle.
Fall is a beautiful time of year for horse riding lessons. The weather is not too warm or too cold, the sky is blue and there are colored trees all around with crunchy leaves.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Fair

We have an annual tradition of going to the state fair. Each fall we head up one afternoon right after school and spend the evening enjoying the animals, rides and food. This year the kids found some new friends.

Chance also rode a mechanical bull for the first time at the fair this year.  As he climbed the platform to get on the "bull," we asked him if he wanted us to hold his implants while he rode. He immediately said "no."  They play music with a good beat as you ride a mechanical bull, so maybe it was good that Chance kept his implants on. Good motivation. Chance did really well riding that steel bull.  He stayed on for a while and tried to keep the cowboy stance as he rode....squeezing his legs onto the bull and holding his weight back with his hand in the air.  His legs were sore when he got off, but this ride was not his only ride. He will try it again.  And then probably again.
The implants stayed on like champs through out the ride too.
Overall, it was a successful day at the fair. And Chance fit right in with his cowboy hat.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Chance finds a new toy

While we were up watching the eclipse, we had lunch with some friends. These friends also had a four wheeler that they let Chance drive.  Chance has taken the test to drive the four wheeler but we don't have one of our own, so he doesn't get out much.

Chance's brothers and sisters all wanted a ride and so Chance made the sacrifice of going on several rides so that they all got a chance to go.

On the way home, Chance told us that we needed to get a four wheeler of our own. A few days before that, Chance told us that we needed to get a horse of our own. I am sensing a transportation theme. I told Chance that it could be just like the old days, when kids rode horses to school.  Chance thought that was a fabulous idea. It would be a hard endeavor logistically to use a horse to get to school because there are some main roads to travel that don't have a horse lane and there is no place to put a horse on the school grounds unless you count the grassy spots around the school.

But a boy can dream.

This picture looks like Chance has lots of arms and hands, but it is just his sister and her friend behind him after he gave then a ride.

Monday, August 28, 2017

We saw the eclipse!

Like many other people across the world, we drove up to Idaho to see the eclipse.  There were other places to go besides Idaho of course, we actually could have stayed right where our house is and we would have seen the eclipse, but we wanted more. We wanted as much time of totality as possible, and we have family up north, so we loaded up the van and headed up the highway.

Our family has been looking forward to this eclipse for about two decades. We always knew that we would be in Idaho when it happened if it was at all possible.  I can not even explain how extraordinary the experience was. We had 2 minutes 10 seconds of totality and it was incredible. It started to get cooler as the moon moved in front of the sun, and I actually ended grabbing a sweater from the car. It also started to darken up, but it felt and looked a bit surreal. It was like dusk was coming and the sun was setting. The colors in the sky were the same you see in the evening as the sun starts to set except there was blue too. When the moon moved in front of the sun, it was simply incredible. It didn't just look incredible, it felt incredible.  My pictures from my phone don't even begin to so it justice, but frankly, my main concern was not getting a picture. I was busy being in awe and enjoying what was happening.
Chance and Ammon were so excited to be up in Idaho watching the eclipse with friends and family.

Little moon shapes on the ground made by the light coming through a tree.

We traveled up two days before the actual eclipse to visit family and Chance took some pictures as we drove around the valley. It was his kind of place, farm fields, wide open spaces and a small population.
Chance found a friend crawling across the road

Chance and his new buddy.

Chance taking pictures of a bird of prey

The fabulous road Chance and I drove down

Monday, August 14, 2017

River noises and camping with a cowboy

We decided to go camping more this summer.  We have decided that during summers of the past, but we really made it happen this summer. We bought a new tent and made reservations in advance so that we were really committed to go. It has been wonderful being in the mountains, listening to the mountain stream and being among the trees.

We cooked over an an open fire, made meals from scratch and just got to enjoy each other's company.  One afternoon when we had planned to go to the reservoir, it started to rain, so we ended up sitting in a circle in the tent playing games.

It was in the tent that I realized that what we thought of as a cheery gurgling sound coming from the river, was hindering Ammon's ability to hear in the tent. When he asked "what" several times, I asked him if his implant was working as well as usual. He said yes, but that the sound of the river was making it harder to hear.

The river wasn't actually right next to the tent, it was down at the bottom of a ravine that was behind our campsite. For those of us without hearing aids and implants, it was a background noise that came into focus every once in a while. Apparently, for Ammon, it was enough sound to hinder how well he heard in the tent.

Chance came up and joined us after work and found the hammock calling to him. He hung his cowboy hat on a branch, and climbed in for little rest.

Sleeping cowboy

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Implant Missing in Action

When we took our family vacation to California last summer, we never could have guessed that we would be returning this summer for a second go around. But a family member decided to get married and the marriage took place in California, so we loaded up the family and headed to the west coast once again.

This was a marvelous opportunity to see some of the places we saw last summer as well as to see some new spots. The wedding took place in Oakland in the Oakland Temple.

We were staying with friends in San Francisco the night before the wedding and as we drove the 45 minutes to the temple, something happened in the backseat of our van. The two kids involved have slightly different stories as to what occurred, but the result was that Ammon's implant was knocked off of his head. This in and of itself is not that strange as the implants come off at times, but what was weird about the situation, is that we couldn't find the implant for the next 24 hours.

We got to the temple just in time for the wedding since we hit some traffic en route, and we had Chance park the car and take the kids to a neighboring church as the ceremony was only for adults. We reminded Chance that he and the kids were supposed to meet us at the entrance to the temple in about an hour for pictures. We felt confident that the implant would be found once the van was parked and everyone could look around the seats. When we met up with the kids for pictures however, the implant had still not been found.

Chance's dad went out to the van and looked all around in between pictures, but couldn't find a clue as to where the implant had gone. Ammon did not appreciate not being able to hear very well and I don't blame him.  We ended up taking the wedding pictures, eating at the luncheon and attending the reception that evening all without an implant (despite a couple more full-car-inspections). Poor Ammon. We looked and looked all over the place and could not find his implant anywhere. It gave Ammon a headache having to strain to hear, and he wanted to go back to our hotel.

The following morning as we packed up to head back home, we still hadn't found the implant. We were at a loss as to where it could have gone. Just as we were leaving the hotel, Ammon's sister was rummaging around in her backpack when she found the missing implant. It had somehow bounced into the backpack on our drive the day before.

We were elated to meet that little implant again. Ammon most of all naturally. Thankfully, he had had the implant during most of the vacation as the wedding was on the last day that we were in California.

Our family loves implants.

The Golden Gate Bridge as fog rolls in

Giant Redwood Trees

Cowboy(aka Chance) in a redwood tree

Ammon bonds with a giant redwood tree

Monday, July 03, 2017

Camping with Chance

Our family went camping up in the mountains this week. If you are going camping, you really want Chance to come with you. He is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys doing things like making a fire and maintaining it, putting up hammocks, putting up tents and exploring the great outdoors.

Chance decided to forgo sleeping in the tent and opted instead to sleep out under the stars.  Chance may not hear the morning sounds while camping, like birds chirping, the river gurgling or the sound of trees rustling in the wind like the rest of us, but he is awakened by the light. Deaf or not, you can not avoid the light from the rising sun when sleeping outside.

While I lay in the tent going in and out of sleep early in the morning, I heard a sound that I figured what either soft rain falling or a fire crackling. When Chance unzipped the tent and announced that he had a fire going so we could come out now, I realized that it was indeed a fire. I was hoping the sound was a fire because that would mean warmth. It was about 44 degrees when we woke up.

Me and Chance's little sister made our way to the camp chairs around the campfire and started warming up while Chance made hot chocolate. That is right, he starts fires and makes hot chocolate for you in the morning which makes him an excellent camping buddy. And a good fine son.

Chance got the morning rolling for the rest of us, and then after breakfast, he headed down the canyon to work. Chance is taking some time off later in the summer so he couldn't spend the entire day in the mountains, but he packed in a lot of activity while he was there.

He brought up his mountain bike and did some exploring. He also got down to the bathroom faster than the rest of us. Chance made popcorn over the fire and spent some time enjoying the view from the hammock.  You could hear the stream quite well from the hammock if it was quiet.

Chance proved himself to be an invaluable camping buddy and we may need to make sure that we never go camping without him as long as he lives. Having someone who will get up and make a nice warm fire for you to come out to, is worth their weight in gold when the temperature is nippy in the morning. Plus, he is a fine conversationalist.
Making popcorn over the fire

View from the hammock

The fire Chance and his sister built
Chance tries to save a wounded butterfly