"We are going to focus on LIFE for Katya. I believe, one day, she will amaze the world."

Dr. Ben Carson on Katya Dueck

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ukraine's Independence Day

Today is Ukraine's Independence Day. It is a poignant day, as they are celebrating their independence from the former USSR while simultaneously being forced to fight again for their freedom from Russian aggression in the East of Ukraine.

I was privileged to watch some clips from the parade and speeches, thanks to a new initiative launched today--"Ukraine Today"--English news from Ukraine!  Check it out!

In honor of Ukraine's Independence Day, here are some photos of our kids taken wearing traditional Ukraine clothing. I don't think I have ever shared it before, but on my husband's side of the family, our relatives came from Ukraine.

Miss Katya of course--taken this spring.

And and older picture of the other kids taken probably in the winter of 2009 or early spring 2010. I  purchased outfits for them when I first went to Ukraine in 2009.


They all are pretty fond of their outfits. Chad sadly outgrew his, but my friend, Anne, was able to find and purchase one for him that she brought to the USA when they came last fall, so he has one he can wear again. I really should get updated photos now that we have Katya with all the kids wearing them.

We pray for the peace of Ukraine, and wish them all the best!! Ukraine is very near and dear to our hearts. (So is Russia for that matter, but we do not appreciate what they are doing to Ukraine and their peace-loving people.)

Slava Ukraini!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Vacation--Toledo Zoo--Part 1

The end of July and first part of August, we were privileged to take a little vacation when a long-time family friend invited us to stay a few nights in her cabin on the edge of Lake Superior.

We prepped Katya ahead of time by checking out books on vacation from the library and reading them to her over and over. She seemed to like them, so we were hopeful that when we told her that we were leaving the next day for vacation that she would be happy and not stressed out.

She was! Until we showed up at summer camp to take her out a little early to leave!

Poor girl! She was crying bitterly as her teacher brought her to us. She calmed down a little when she realized everyone was outside waiting for her.

But she was still sad and would periodically burst into tears the first day and cry sadly all over again!

We stopped to eat a packed picnic lunch on the way to the Toledo Zoo. I don't think I got any photos of that--we were too busy trying to quickly eat and get back on the road so we would have as much time as possible at the zoo!

When we got to the Zoo, Katya was initially very anxious and upset, wanted her noise-cancelling ear muffs and even those were not enough help. Every thing was triggering her, and I began to think we might need to leave before we even got started really,  but Charity remembered to apply Peace and Calming and Stress Away Essential Oils, and Katya soon calmed down and began to enjoy the zoo--A LOT!

Chad was EXTREMELY happy! He is all about animals and wants to learn as much as he can every time he is at the zoo.

Katya and I were both fascinated by the elephants. That was probably the most enjoyable part of the zoo trip for me.


It was especially fun to see them using their trunks to blindly fish out treats!

The kiddos enjoyed the animal masks.

Our trip to the zoo was most satisfactory and a great start to our first day of vacation!


Monday, August 18, 2014

First Day of Second Grade

The first year Katya went to school, she was terrified. She stood, clenched fists, crying unhappily and terribly upset.

It felt awful.

The next year was a trifle better.

And the next just a little bit better.

But today?? Oh my!

Katya was so excited to be going back to her good school! From the moment she woke up enough to realize what she was up to today, she was happy!

She was eager to get outside and wait for her ride to arrive.

She was patient with us taking photos!

And excited about us taking pictures! (She was so tickled with her new shoes!)

We thought Katya looked so "big girl" today.

Katya was truly happy to be going back to the school in the Big City, and it showed all over her!

No tears, just a quick kiss on the cheek from her after I buckled her into the school van, and then she signed, "Good-bye--Go!" and happily went off. 

We are so happy for her. Praying she has an absolutely fantastic year this year!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Some Excellent News About School!

Katya's 7 weeks of summer camp at the school "in the big City" were so successful, that we KNEW we wanted her to return there for fall. We also knew she NEEDED to return there. She needs on-going help learning how to effectively learn to communicate using her Ipad and App. The school's goal is to teach her the equivalent of being a speed typist, rather than a hunt and peck, along with the appropriate skills to form meaningful sentences etc.

Our local school has truly taken Katya as far as they are capable of taking her at this point. She needs the best specialists that there are in this state. She needs a school where the staff across the board are ALL familiar with using the LAMP Words for Life App to communicate. She needs a school where she is just another pupil--not the school "freak". Yes, no matter how vigilant the local school was, (and they DID try!) Katya was called things like that from time to time. I personally heard some of them when dropping her to and from school, so I am sure that she heard it at times when I was not there either.

Katya needs to in a school where she has peers using devices to communicate also, so that she is able to model and imitate.

In short, even though the days are long and the schedule is very tight, Katya needs to be in this school.

We advocated for that. The specialists at the school in the Big City advocated for that, and eventually, the local district agreed! Yes, we are thrilled! I can not wait to see where Katya goes this school year in such a supportive and specialized environment. Instead of being in a room with 20 some other kids  (which was just too overwhelming to her often) with one teacher, a para, and an aide, she will be in a room with 8 kids to 4 teachers! Yes,  you read that right--teachers. Not aides and paras. Teachers.

She will get speech therapy 4 days a week, and music therapy. She may eventually be getting OT/PT/Sensory therapy--that is to be determined a little later into the year.

Katya was so happy when we told her she was going back! She is very eager for Monday and her first day! We hope we remember to catch a few pictures of her!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Joys of Communicating With An AAC Device

After Kaya's OT/PT/Sensory therapy today, I stopped at the little health food store we have in town. Katya used her device (with some slight encouragement) to ask for the piece of ginger candy she wanted. Then when I went to check out, she turned her device on, went to the drinks section and choose, "BEER".
I laughed, the cashier laughed--and I said, "Oh Katya! You are too young for beer! Do you want tea?" I showed her the tea button and she choose that, so I purchased a bottle of tea for her which she guzzled down greedily. But after I got home and told Charity, she laughed at me and said, "MOM! Don't you remember?? She LOVES their natural ROOT beer!"
Maybe we need a ROOT beer button, eh??

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Tonight, Kristina grabbed herself a popsicle after working hard in the gardening picking green beans. Shortly after she began enjoying it, Paul walked back to the storage room where the freezer is, and quickly realized he was being followed by Katya. She gently touched his shoulder, then when he looked at her, pointed to the deep freezer with one finger, while putting a finger from the other hand to her lips. It was obvious from the look of intense concentration that Katy was thinking hard!

Suddenly, out of her mouth came, "Pah!"  Her Daddy quickly ran over in his mind what might be "Pah!" and in the deep freezer--and just that quick, came up with the idea that she had just given him the first two sounds of the word "Popsicle". And so it was! Katya was quite pleased when he opened the door and let her choose one!

So nice that she is able to communicate more and more to us what she is really wanting. ;-)