Thursday, June 6, 2013


Sailing Away was the theme for my granddaughter's graduation from Northern Voices.  Northern Voices is a school that specifically trains children with implants or who are hard of hearing, to first listen then to speak.  She has been at the school for four years.  And this is one graduation I wouldn't miss for the world.

The theme was Sailing Away........

As we walked in the hall we found our granddaughter's buoy with a baby picture and her current photo.   What a fitting idea, as Northern Voices did hold her afloat, from the time of her implant, to her being ready for a regular classroom.  Pomp and Circumstance never sounded sweeter!

The graduates marched in wearing their Sailor Hats!!  

As the ceremony got under way the emcee thanked the board, gave much praise to the staff and lots of praise to the parents of these special children.  She thanked them for all the sacrifices they have made though the years, and appreciated their commitment to their children.  

It was a bittersweet farewell;  anxious to move on to new 'seas', and yet sad to leave behind the friends who have become like a light house in the port. 

I'm not sure how cowboy boots fit into the Sailing Away theme, but that's my granddaughter!!!

Prior to getting their certificates a video/slide show was presented depicting each child's special talent.
My granddaughter chose scooter riding as her talent.

The "Class of 2013" was presented and received a hug from each of their teachers.  

Then the parents had a chance to recognize the efforts of this great school.  My son was willing to share what he and his wife went through to enable their daughter to attend this school.  He also noted that he had logged over 125,000 miles just back and forth from their home to Northern voices:

I am sharing his family's story, which he wrote two years ago:

Ceilie’s Story
Ceilie is now a five year old student at Northern Voices. Three weeks ago she started speaking in sentences, two weeks ago she faked out a speech therapist, and last week she made a friend using her words at the YMCA.  She has made a lot of progress, and in the next two years she will enter elementary school with minimal help.
Our thoughts about Ceilie being deaf were confirmed on August 16, 2007.  That day is still clear in my mind.  Her sister Corina was four days old.  They were both sitting together on the couch, when the front door slammed shut.  Corina’s brown eyes darted to the door, and Ceilie’s steel blue eyes just stared out into the room.  There were no tears on that day.  With only 1 in 10,000 babies diagnosed profoundly deaf; we hadn’t expected this news, but we knew we had to get her help.   The nurse in Kelliher told us that she was a stubborn child.  The audiologist in Bemidji performed some tests, and confirmed she was stubborn child and if she didn’t find anything wrong she would prescribe mental retardation testing. Imagine, covering a profoundly deaf person’s face their only connection with the world, and not get why they are lashing out.   This just made us push harder to get the right answers.  My Mom’s friend Julie, who had just recently been implanted with a Cochlear implant, mapped out a course of action.  We demanded an ABR (automated brain response) in Fargo.  Finally our thoughts of her being deaf were validated.  At this same time, I had answered a plea in a local newspaper for a farmer in southern Minnesota to run cattle on a fenced in property. By some strange turn of events I started farming with Harvey from Fairbault.  During one of our conversations I mentioned Ceilie’s issues, and learned his wife Deb taught at Fairbault School for the Deaf, for over 30 years.
With Deb’s connections we were at the University of Minnesota Children’s ENT Clinic to see if Ceilie was a good candidate for a Cochlear Implant.  We met with a lot Doctors and had an  MRI to see if she could be implanted.  I remember meeting with Dr. Frank Remmel.  Now, he is seen as a quirky life saver by many of our friends.  But on that day, there are a lot of things I don’t  remember.
I asked Dr. Remmel what he would do if Ceilie was his kid.  I was not ready for his answer.  He told us to mortgage everything we had, and send her to Northern Voices.  Northern Voices was a five hour drive from our farm. 
We started working with the school district.  They sent out some teachers to teach Ceilie ASL.  We had a deaf mentor to help us through this and teach our family ASL.  We worked with the district thinking they could solve Ceilie’s problems.  At school this is described as drinking the kool-aid.  I guess I didn’t get a full glass.  Ceilie was becoming a frustrated two year old.  She had huge temper tantrums.  You could just see this little person trying to ask for basic things like a drink, or I’m hungry.  I realized that we were not making any progress.
On a cold February day I drove five hours to Northern Voices for a twenty minute tour.  What I saw in those twenty minutes struck me so profoundly.  I saw kids like Ceilie talking.  I wanted that for my daughter.  I was willing to fight every obstacle  to make this possible.  At the time, I was working twelve hour shifts at a lumber mill.  One week we would work three days, and the next week we would work four days. One day a week would leave farm at Seven o’clock at night and drive to Nisswa to stay at a cheap motel.  We would leave the motel at five- thirty in the morning so Ceilie could attend a half day a week in the toddler program.  She was making progress.  That summer we stayed at Ginny’s house for two nights a week.  So she could attend three half days a week.  Then we decided to take on the school district in Kelliher.  We sat through a nine hour mediation session to get her services paid for to attend Northern Voices;   a totally frustrating experience for our family.  The result?  Mediocrity is legal. So sue us, we’ll make it a public vs. private matter.
We didn’t come to an agreement with the school district.  Becky’s dad had thirteen brothers and sisters.  All of siblings had between four and eleven kids.  Kelliher has a population around two hundred.  At last count she had one hundred and thirty five first cousins.  This basically means that we were related to almost everyone.  This is a very ideal situation to live in that culture.  I remember one day when one of her second cousins called us to remind who we should vote for.  Those votes meant that you could get help with about anything.
We were at the annual Fourth of July picnic on her Grand Parents farm.  Her Dad asked one of the school board members if they could help us get the resources we needed.  He basically told us that the different kids were just pushed off to the side because they might cost too much.  So the ballets that they made sure we were putting in their favor, were only helpful if you have kids who didn’t need any extra help.  I was too stunned to be furious, but the fury did eventually come and the fight or flight response kicked in.  From that day forward my enemy was the Kelliher School District. I pulled her out of the district, so they would not get any money for helping special needs students from the state.
We were promised by the Red Lake Nation Head Start Program that they would send her to Northern Voices and bill the home district (Kelliher) for the expenses.  She only needed to attend the tribal head start program.  This was another promise that once again was not fulfilled.  We noticed that Ceilie was picking up Ojibway as a primary language because of the intensity they taught their language. Ceilie knew most of the animals by their Ojibwe names.  This was just funny.  The kid couldn’t speak one word of English, or understand anything we were talking about, but she could speak broken Ojibway.
 For what it’s worth, Red Lake with the highest levels of poverty and unemployment and leading dropout rates, had welcomed this little girl with open arms and spent many hours each day with one on one instruction. Her behaviors had diminished, she didn’t go into major meltdowns each morning like she had at Kelliher, but she still needed more.  She was still a very lonely child.
June tenth, of two thousand and ten was a day that changed our lives.  We were tapped for money because Becky spent almost her whole check on club expenses, and the secretary that issued the reimbursement was not available.  It was Ceilie’s fourth birthday and we were broke.  We literally went through the couch to get enough change to buy her a birthday cake.  With the cake finally secured, baked and frosted Ceilie had the absolute look of horror, when we went to sing happy birthday and blow out the candles.  Why were we lighting a cake on fire?  She couldn’t even realize it was her birthday.
We made a decision that we were going to do everything so she could learn to talk. We started to sell everything of value.  We sold away our lives as we knew it by that summer.  In August I went to the bank to sign over our farm and rental property to the bank so we didn’t have to go through foreclosure.
We moved to Becker where we rented a two bedroom apartment so we could keep one of our last possessions, our dog Reco.  We decided that it was time to keep our family together no matter what.  Becky quit her Job as the Executive Director for the Boys and Girls Club of Red Lake.  We moved all we had left and nine thousand dollars so Ceilie could finally learn to listen and speak.  It was the toughest thing we have ever done. We had no jobs and only nine thousand dollars to make a new life for ourselves.  By January the money ran out. . The economy was horrible and despite both of us having four year degrees, we had to go on public assistance. Two weeks later Becky got a job as a bill collector, and started going back to school for her master’s degree. With the money from Becky’s job, I continued to drive Ceilie to school five days a week; 10 -12 hours travel per week.
In December our neighbors upstairs moved out.  In April we had new neighbors, and it was obvious they were selling drugs.  We had to move for our security.  We learned that by turning in our properties to the bank or deed on lieu of foreclosure was not held against us.  We were eligible to buy a house.  We cashed in the last 401K so we would have a down payment.  Move all kinds of debt around, and sold our fish house.  We had the money to buy a house. 
Where we are today…It is now February.  We have lived in our house since Thanksgiving 2011. It has been a struggle, and I appreciate all those people who helped us get our daughter the help she needed; although, I am most thankful for the past three weeks.  Ceilie can now speak sentences, develop friendships, and fake out speech therapists in kindergarten screenings.  Those three things have made all our work pay off, and we can finally look forward to the future.

Today: Ceilie will be mainstreamed into first grade, no aide, just a normal first grade kid, with a blinking ear.  She will be using a loop system, to enhance her hearing and that's it!!!    

Becky earned her masters, and has secured a much better paying position, and my son will continue to be an advocate for Ceilie for another year or so, ensuring she begins first grade on a good note.

My son and his wife also made a public commitment to sponsor a family at risk.  What they meant by 'family at risk' was; any particular student who can no longer continue at Northern Voices because of the high cost of gasoline.  All Northern Voices has to do is determine the family in need, and  Greg & Becky will provide one week's mileage cost every month for as long as the family needs their help.   

 After the ceremony, and all the tears were dried,  the staff provided us all with bars/cookies and lemon-aid!

These are some courageous  little kids!!

After personally thanking some of the teachers for all the have done my granddaughter, we left feeling blessed that Ceilie is off to a great new beginning!!

Ceilie and her sister hung on the sign for  the last time!!

And that's the way it is...........


  1. bless that sweet young girl. bless your son and daughter-in-law and her little sis for all they have sacrificed and fought for. bless you for the pride in your heart that is swelling all over blogland - and for good reason. :)

  2. Wonderful post and photos ! Congrats to you all a big step indeed ! Thanks for sharing . Have a good day !

  3. this is a heartwarming, touching and also amazing story of this families journey... i love that last photo of her. and also love the cowboy boots...and God bless and continue to bless this little girl and her family and enable them to continue with aid to the other family. truly a feel good story

  4. What an absolutely beautiful story! Congratulations to all of them. Now I have to go and dry my tears...

  5. I'm wiping the tears away as I write this....... Very moving!

  6. That is fantastic and I applaud all they did to ensure this precious little girl would be able to hear.

  7. Wow! What an inspiring story of your family. I noticed Ceilie wore cowboy boots for her scooter talent as well. :)

  8. Oh my...this is love at the fullest. What a blessing to read. Ceilie is a beautiful little girl and I wish her Gods blessings.♥

  9. Thank you for sharing this amazing and heartwarming story. May God continue to bless you all. The pictures melt my heart.

  10. Yes, thank you for sharing about your brave and determined little gal! And determined parents too. My friends niece's little girl had an ocular transplant too but hasn't been quite as successful.

  11. Oh, my! Your son and DIL are good people as we say in the south--they knew what needed to be done and took those steps--may God continue to bless them!

  12. Your son is a wonderful man..probably because you raised him! What a moving story..they survived such hard times. I hope they are richly blessed in the years to come. Thanks for sharing and Congratulations to your granddaughter she is beautiful and I love the boots:)

  13. What a beautiful story! I loved your son's recounting of the journey. It shows what we can do if we are willing to make adjustments in the path. That's not an easy thing to do, but always rewarding. Kudos to both of them for the fortitude!

  14. The story is not only amazing but beautiful. Brought tears to my eyes. You truely have an amazing family. You are blessed.
    The kindness of your son to help another family reflects back on you and your husband. God Bless all of you. Congrats to Ceilie.

  15. Thank you for sharing this with us. Best wishes to all.

  16. WoW muff, you got me all teared up!! What a beautiful story, one that is so important to share....and to tell in this positive way!! What a brave family and such a moving writing from your son!!

    So happy you shared this!!

  17. Muffy So glad you shared this moving story. I so admire your son and daughter in law.. you have every right to be so proud of them.. Strong, tough , resilent.. Wishing the whole family only the best in the future....Bet your "stubborn" granddaughter aces grade one...... love the cowboy boots....... a fashionista in the making.

  18. As a hearing impaired person I know the difficulties it creates in everyday life. What a wonderful program for you daughter!! Congrats on her graduation and transition into 1st grade!

  19. Such a wonderful cheering post, I am so glad to have a chance to read it. Muffy your family is wonderful..and your granddaughter is amazing.

    Congrats on her grad.


  20. What a marvelous moving story!!! Thanks for sharing this with us. You have a very remarkable family. Go get um Ceilie!!!


  21. Hoje estar aqui no seu blog tem um sabor especial para mim ,
    pois muitas vezes luto para não deixar ninguém sem a resposta
    do comentário deixado no meu blog.
    O carinho recebido é tudo na minha vida
    da forças para minha vida nunca parar
    ou demorar um pouco mais entre vocês.
    A luta tem sido grande , mais a força que emana de vocês
    me fortace na luta de seguir sem olhar muito para traz.
    Quando temos amizades maldade , sem inveja,
    sem preconceitos com os problemas de amigas.
    Nos elevamos como ser humano que passamos ser na vida
    depois de vencer a dura batalha para continuar a viver .
    Um Dia encontrarei solução para minhas perguntas,
    Porque eu meu Deus?
    Nunca devemos questionar porque eu..porque?
    com o tempo conhecemos os porque dos desígnios de Deus.
    È onde aprendemos valorizar um folego de vida
    é sentir que podemos ainda vencer os obstáculos
    imposta para nosso crescimento e evolução como ser humano.
    Até nosso retorno para o jardim de rua de ouro cercada de anjos.
    A cada dia temos uma chance para recomeçar e escrever um novo começo.
    O sol é o mesmo, mas os raios de luz,
    trazem a novidade de um tempo que é único.
    Deus está no comando da sua vida,
    mas Seu amor indica possibilidades para sermos felizes.
    Se for preciso, recomece tudo outra vez.
    Um feliz e abençoado final de semana beijos
    no coração infinitos carinhos na alma.
    Evanir: espero ter deixado um pouco de mim..

  22. Your story was moving. Your family is beautiful.
    Congrads for Granddaughter.

    Thanks for sharing.


  23. Muffy, what a journey your family has traveled...and look how the Lord has blessed them the ones they now support. Your lil Cecile is adorable and now has a whole world to explore and hear, thanks to all the sacrifice of her family and yours...what a remarkable beginning for a remarkable little wonder you are bursting with pride.
    Loved that you shared your son's story.