Therapeutic Riding

In the Spring of 2013, our little Matthew was a tiny six-year-old boy.  He was about the size of an average 3-year-old.  Our sweet boy had seen so many doctors, had so many surgeries, and had been to so many therapists in his short lifetime, that Matthew decided he was done with it all.  We dropped out of speech and physical therapy, because Matthew was refusing to cooperate during the sessions despite everyone’s best efforts.  However, we felt like he was doing well at home.  He was starting to use more and more words, and would use sign language when he couldn’t verbalize something.  He would run, jump, climb and play with his brothers, and was truly a delightful, vibrant part of our family.  Still, as his mother, I would wonder if there wasn’t something more we could be doing for him.

At one of the parent support-group meetings for families with special needs in our area, I picked up a brochure for Blue Mountain Therapeutic Riding.  I admit, I was a skeptic at the start.  Our past experiences with therapy had made me hesitant to expect any real therapeutic benefits, but I knew Matthew would enjoy the experience.  He loved animals of all kinds, but horses were his favorite.  We decided to enroll Matthew, and see how it went.

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Matthew loved every single minute he was able to spend with his therapy horse.  His smile would be so big, and his eyes would be so bright, that it would often bring tears to my own eyes to see him so happy.  My little guy who struggled to speak would talk endlessly about his horse.  He would be so excited to ride, that he would talk all the way to his riding lesson, and all the way home.  His instructors also insisted that he use the correct commands, spoken loudly and clearly to the horse.  This was speech therapy, but Matthew didn’t know it!

I was also surprised by the benefits therapeutic riding provided for improving Matthew’s core strength and balance. During that first summer, he needed volunteers to hold both of his legs to keep him from slipping off the horse.  But, as he gained balance and strength, playing “airplane” or “picking apples” while riding bare-back, it became obvious that this was physical therapy, too.  By the second summer, he had graduated to a saddle and stirrups, and by the third summer, he was holding the reins.

We were thrilled that Matthew’s speech was improving, and that he was gaining strength and balance, but there was still more.  Matthew would often stop his horse by the fence to wave and say, “I did it, Mommy!  Look at me!  I did it myself!”  The pride and confidence he gained is absolutely priceless.

There are therapeutic benefits that are harder to put into words, too.  If we had a tough day, riding would fix it.  If Matthew was struggling and frustrated with something, riding would ease his stress.  If he wasn’t feeling well that day, he would feel better while he was on his horse.  I will forever be thankful that we found therapeutic riding for Matthew.  I truly can’t say enough wonderful things about it, or the patient, kind instructors and volunteers at Blue Mountain Therapeutic Riding.  Thank you for all that you do.  We can’t wait for the Summer session to start!

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Jesse got to enjoy a beautiful evening ride, too!

Kid Quiz

Last Tuesday, Nathan broke my nose.  I was laying down with him, putting him to bed, when he sat up, then flung himself backwards and hit my nose with the back of his hard head.  I had to have it surgically reset on Friday, so we have been taking it easy for the last few days.

I used a little bit of the down time to interview the kids individually with questions a friend had sent me.  I hope you enjoy their answers – I sure did!

 

1. What is something I always say to you?

Micah (10): “Let’s go outside.”

Matthew (8): “God.”

Jesse (6): “Jesse!  Jesse!”

Mikayla (3): “No movies before school.”

2. What makes me happy?

“When I clean up the kitchen”

“Crazy”

“When I take care of you”

“Taking care of your nose.”

3. What makes me sad?

“When Nathan gets hurt”

“Hospital”

“When I choose to not follow God”

“When we start a bath by ourselves without any grownups”

4. How do I make you laugh?

“Tickling”

“Ice cream cake!”

“Doing something so fun that I laugh”

“Playing with Nathan’s bammer”

5. What was I like when I was little?

“You had glasses”

“five”

“Just like me!”

“You wore the tight flower jammies”

6. How old am I?

“34”

“10”

“13”

“27”

How tall am I?

“5’6″”

“8”

“Normal”

“98”

8. What is my favorite thing to do?

“Not break your nose”

“Candles”

“Snuggle with me”

“cook”

9. What do I do when you’re not around?

“Go to ice cream shops”

“Garden”

“Talk with Daddy and clean up the kitchen”

“I don’t know”

10. What am I really good at?

“singing”

“Hiding”

“being beautiful”

“cooking”

11. What am I not very good at?

“catching chickens”

“kudu”

“Nothing”

“singing funny like Daddy”

12. What do I do for a job?

“be my mom”

“working”

“Take care of your own kids”

“Putting Nathan to bed”

13.What is my favorite food?

“cheese-stuffed mushrooms”

“muffin”

“Thai food”

“Muffins”

Regional Birthright Conference

I had the privilege of sharing Matthew’s story at the Regional Birthright Conference today. It was such an honor, and so great to be there!  I couldn’t have asked for a warmer, more welcoming audience. Thanks for inviting me, Birthright!

As promised, here are the links I mentioned today during the presentation:

BeNotAfraid.net is an excellent resource for any parents facing an adverse prenatal diagnosis.  It is full of stories from parents who refused abortion, even when facing devastating medical circumstances.  It offers support and encouragement for parents who face any kind of medical issues with their baby during pregnancy.

Raising A Boy Who Wasn’t Supposed to Live is the article about Matthew that was published on the “What to Expect When You are Expecting” website, and viewed over one million times.

Matthew’s Miracle: The Healing of a Broken Heart is a more complete version of Matthew’s story.

Thank you again for having me today.  If you have any questions or comments for me, please feel free to contact me at: amyvawter@gmail.com.

Turn Around, and You’re Eight!

Oh my!  Has it really been a year since my last post?  I guess I have been too busy living life to blog about it!

Matthew the Miracle turned EIGHT this week!  When the boys asked Matthew, “What kind of birthday do you want?,” and gave him options such as “race car birthday, pirate birthday, glow-stick birthday, balloon birthday…” he replied, “Church birthday!  Father-David!” We were able to start his day of celebration with a beautiful Mass celebrated by Fr. David. I love this kid’s heart, and he has already taught us so much. I can’t wait to see what else God has planned for his life!

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Our mission for this birthday was to find a bicycle Matthew could ride.  He has long outgrown our little tricycle, and never liked the feeling of the balance-bike.  Even a bike with training wheels felt too unsteady for him, and he would give up.  We needed something fun, exciting, steady, and easy to pedal and steer.  We looked at adaptive tricycles made for children with special needs, but with price tags of $2K-$6K, those were out of the question!

Then, we found the Mobito on Amazon.com.  It was exactly what wemobito were looking for.  It fits Matthew perfectly on the smallest setting, and will be able to grow with him for many years.  It looks so “cool,” and is so fun to ride, that all of the other kids beg for a turn on it, too!

Matthew is growing up in so many way.  His speech is becoming clearer and clearer, and he is now able to sound out simple words in addition to reading over 50 sight-words.  We are so proud!

Happy 7th Birthday, Matthew!

Today, we celebrated Matthew’s 7th birthday.

IMG_1736 - Version 2I finally made a birthday cake that suited his palate, and he ate it happily.  This was also the first year that he anticipated his birthday weeks in advance, and really looked forward to the big day.

He is such a gift.  He is full of the purest love an joy, and we wouldn’t trade him for the world.

Happy 7th birthday, my sweetheart!

Annual Cardiology Check-Up

 

Matthew had his annual cardiologist today.  He gets to have an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, and a visit with the specialist once every year.

Remember his mitral regurgitation (leaky valve)?  Last year, it was “moderate,” and they wanted to watch it closely.  This year, it is “trivial.”

And that pin-hole between his ventricles that they were watching?  It is gone!

In fact, his little heart is doing so well, we can now go 2 years between cardiology check-ups.

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Not too bad for “zero percent chance of survival….”

. . .

There is so much going on around here … so much to write about.  New house, new baby, new puppy, new flock of chickens, new routines … I apologize that I don’t keep this blog very well updated.  For now, just taking care of my children and my family takes all of my time and energy.  At the end of the day, I can barely form a complete thought, let alone write one down!  But, we are very, very blessed, and for now, it is enough.  Patient readers, thank you for continuing to care about our precious little boy and our family.  I will update when I can.  

 

Introducing: Nathan Timothy

I’d like you to meet someone!

Nathan Timothy surprised us by arriving three weeks early – just in time to be the first baby of 2014 in Walla Walla!

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7lbs, 2oz

20 inches long

8:16pm, 01/01/14

We are both doing very well.  Image

Nathan is a popular guy, adored by all of his older siblings. 

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In fact, Kaylie is pretty sure that he belongs to her.Image

 

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When we called home to tell the kids that Nathan had been born, Jesse said, “I don’t really care for that name.  May I call him John?”  Now, he says he has gotten used to the name and is o.k. calling him Nathan or Nate.

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The “first baby of the year” gets a lot of attention in our community.  Our local newspaper ran a front-page article about him, which you can read here:

http://union-bulletin.com/news/2014/jan/03/early-arrival-walla-wallas-first-born-2014/

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Enjoy the pictures.  I’m going to get back to some sweet newborn snuggles now …