Thursday, March 31, 2011

The balance

Tomorrow we have our IEP meeting, when (hopefully) we will sign the paperwork that puts Maya in the preschool that we really like, and then a big weight will lift off our shoulders.  :)

A few months ago we had the preliminary IEP meeting, in which I clashed with the CPSE official.  I said that I wanted a bunch of after school therapies approved, he said that we should just start school and then come back with the school team in the fall if we all think Maya would benefit from more therapy.  I said that wasn't good enough (because really, with her evaluation results, she should totally qualify for additional services).  He said too bad (basically).  I ordered IEP books and planned a fight.

And then I changed my mind.

I asked questions of our therapists, and then spoke with other families whose children started preschool this past fall.  I researched.  I thought about school starting, schedules changing, no naps (the preschool doesn't have naptime), and realized that I only want Maya to have therapy maybe twice a week after school.  Then, I decided that the afterschool therapy we need to keep is the private oral motor stuff, which targets both feeding and speech (the therapist is PROMPT certified, for those who know/care about speech stuff).  She'll be getting OT, PT and speech at school, and I feel like her OT and PT needs are more typical than her oral motor issues.  That's where we'll need an afterschool specialist.

I don't make decisions lightly.  There was ruminating.  There were eyes-filling-with-tears.  There was anxiety.

Because if your child has special needs, you think a lot about needs.    The need for PT to address balance, walking, climbing stairs, core muscles, etc.  The need for OT to address fine motor skills, eventually holding a pencil, dressing and undressing, etc.    The need for special instruction to address play skills, attending to activities, interactions, etc.  The need for speech & feeding to address, well, speech & feeding.  And it's very difficult to determine which things are most important, which ones to focus the most energy on . . . but you have to make those choices, because it's really hard to work on all of them, all the time. 

But we made our decision, and we're ready to (hopefully) sign for the school!  And we're excited!  And hoping that it goes smoothly!  (Send good thoughts, the meeting is at 9 tomorrow morning.)

And when I was telling someone (someone lovely, who only has Maya's best interests at heart---someone who meant totally no ill will at all) that we're going to sign for the school and not argue for afterschool services right now (although I'm keeping an open mind about meeting in Oct/Nov to add services in) this person said, "You're only going to take what the school offers?"  And I said "Yep."  And they said "I think you should do more."

(I think I clenched.  Then it started to echo in my head.)

I think you should do more.

(and then my stomach dropped)

First off, Maya has a lot of people in her life.  She has 5 therapists (and another 3 that we used and then parted ways with), 6 doctors (and another 3 that we used and don't currently need), and a bunch of family and friends, too.   The decisions that Dave & I make on her behalf might not be everyone's ideal choices . . . but frankly, this isn't a democracy.  When I was thinking through our options, I asked for opinions and advice from the members of our team . . . but I'm not polling the crowd for votes.  We're the parents, it's our decision.  This is our life. 

I think you should do more.

Second, this is our life.  Life

Where does the balance fall between life and therapy?  It's a tough question, isn't it?  For the past 2 years, therapy has filled a large percentage of Maya's life (and I wouldn't change that if I had to redo it.  She loves the therapists, they love her, and she's making great progress).  We have 17 units of therapy each week . . . and when someone asks if we want to get together, I have to sheepishly explain that we're only free from 10:10-10:50 on day A, or from 12:15-1:15 on day B.  Despite the fact that Maya is only 2 and I'm a stay at home mom, we are constantly busy.   We are a revolving door of therapies and doctors appointments.   Since Early Intervention is a birth to 3 program, it was easy to think "3 years of intensity----we'll do everything we possibly can!"  (I even left work, remember?)

But now we're leaving EI and going into the school system.  And I'm starting to wonder . . . how long is this race?  It's certainly not a sprint anymore . . . is it a marathon?  A half marathon? How many years will Maya need therapies for?  

And in looking at a longer road, it's time to think more about the balance.

Because I certainly don't want to look back and wish that we did more.

I think you should do more.

I think we should do more, too.  

More time for playdates in the neighborhood. 
More time giggling at dogs in the dog park while Parker runs and we enjoy the sunshine.
More time walking at a leisurely pace (and less time glancing at my watch to see if we need to race back for therapy).
More time at the playground, or sitting on a blanket in the park.
More time for Maya to walk outside (instead of throwing her in the stroller because we don't have time).
More time to play at night before a super tired little new preschooler has to sleep.
More time for spontaneous trips---the zoo?  the museum?  the grocery store?
More time when it's just the 3 of us.
More time, more time, more time.

Not only am I thinking about Maya's therapy goals, I'm thinking about her life.  And our lives.  And I want to celebrate in September, and get her off the bus and play . . . not think "I'm sorry you're so tired honey but let's just hop in the car and run over to your PT/OT session." 

She will (hopefully) be going to a wonderful school where she will be learning and developing from 8:30-2 every day, surrounded by adults who are highly trained in working with children with special needs.   

So how about after she gets off the bus, 3 days a week she'll be therapy-free and just get to be a 3 year old girl? 

How about we don't stretch her to the point that she's asleep or in tears by the time Daddy gets home?

How about no more frustrated tears for me when I can't figure out what to cancel in order to fit in an appointment, or a playdate, or a birthday party?

How about we stop racing, and try to hit a sustainable stride?

So here's to tomorrow, when we will hopefully have a simple, amicable, stress-free meeting, the papers will be signed, and our spot in the wonderful preschool will be secured.

And (hopefully) here's to next year, Maya's first year of school, where we will walk the tightrope of therapy life and real life, and make steady progress and lots of memories.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In like a lion, out like a (newly shorn) lamb

I have things to say, heavy on my mind, but not the patience or presence to sort them out yet. So instead, random pictures from March :)

We took Maya on one bike ride . . . why only one?  See if you can guess . . .

Mommy, can I ride the bike like this?

Well, how about like this?  This is just how I roll . . .

No, I cannot sit up, hold onto the handlebars, and not drag my feet.  It's simply too much to ask.  So we can ride like this, or take me home.

And that was the end of that.

She helped with the paper recycling . . .

(Doesn't it look like she's doing finger guns?  "Bang bang, I'm the best recycler around!") 

We discovered the Children's Museum of Manhattan and went there twice (hence the different outfits):

She loves climbing stairs (which is verrrrry dangerous, since she doesn't quite have the skill set for it) . . .

Hello, friend!
(I love this picture)

(And this one too)

This was my favorite part of the museum . . . a scale that displays your weight in terms of what animal your tonnage corresponds to.  Yikes.  Why is elephant even an option?  What person visiting the children's museum is going to get on, see "elephant" and think "Oh, elephant?  Yeah, I guess that's about right."
Apparently, me + Maya = boxer.  I believe a boxer weighs about 55 lbs, and Maya is probably 35ish lbs, so I'm clearly in need of milkshakes and cheeseburgers, stat.

Finally, this month I got some new blades for the dog clippers and decided to buzz Parker.  It's getting warmer, and I'm tired of trimming his hair every 2 weeks.  Here he is with everything cut except for one shaggy ear . . .

 . . .  and finished.
Oh, it's so embarrassing!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The A says aaa!

I asked some wise been-there-done-that moms how their kids started to learn about letters.  Several recommended a DVD called "Leapfrog Letter Factory", which Maya quickly took to (given the choice to watch Elmo or "The letters" before bed, she's been chosing the letters).
They sing a cute song about the noises that the letters make, and Maya likes to sing along. . .

Don't get too excited about her tearing through the alphabet, her mouth isn't nearly ready to start making the C sound

Again, I'm not a big advocate of pushing educational stuff onto kids constantly (I'm a big believer in play), but if she's showing interest in letters, I'm going to ride this wave  :)

PS-If you just see a black box, click it and the video will start.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A DIY label project that I can help you with

Lately I've been aggravated.  I've had a few projects going on, and went to an iPad workshop on Thursday, and all week long I keep thinking "Someone must have done this before.  I can't be the only person trying to  put labels around an apartment/use an iPad for communication/do other random teachery things for a nearly-3-yr-old with delays." 

It's so frustrating to think that other people have done some trial-and-error stuff and perfected some great ideas, and I don't know what they are.  Instead, here I am, trying to come up with everything on my own . . .  and I never get anything right the first time, so I have to keep redoing the same stuff. 

Here's an example:

I went on a preschool visit and saw that they had labeled everything with words.  Great idea!, I thought  I can totally do that.   (While I don't expect her to start reading any time soon, it can't hurt to create a text rich environment.)   And so I made labels:
written on sentence strips, laminated, and then hung up with painter's tape

Then I later realized that if we're teaching Maya with PECS (picture cards, or pictures on the iPad), the labels should really include a picture icon in addition to the words.  Oops.  So I have to redo them.

Then I find out that kids learn capital letters first.  So they have to be fixed again.  Now they have to be all caps and include a picture.  Also, everyone who texts/emails/blogs/etc knows that CAPITALS are for YELLING.  So I was less than enthused that my "chair"s  and "door"s were about to become "CHAIR"s and "DOOR"s.  I envisioned walking into my kitchen in the morning and being visually assaulted from the moment I flipped the LIGHT SWITCH and walked past the CABINET, DRAWER, and GARBAGE to the REFRIGERATOR. 

Not cute.

(As it turns out, with a decent font and good clip art, the text is less AGGRESSIVE than I thought it might be.  Thank goodness.)

Here's the step-by-step process (so you can do it yourself without having to reinvent the wheel) of the new-label-making. 

Step 1: This is what I came up with, through googling clip art images and formatting in a word document:***

 Also, I can't spell REFRIGERATOR, in case you didn't notice.  I fixed it and reprinted, but I'm too lazy to take new pictures, and I also don't care if you think that I can't spell.

Step 2: I cut out all of the labels, because they laminate better individually:

Step 3: Set them up in sheets to be laminated:


 Post-lamination, again

Step 4: Cut out the laminated squares.  *Remember to round the corners, because kids will rip these things down ad nauseum  and you don't want scary, sharp edges.

Step 5: Hang them up (painter's tape works well) around eye level.  I taped these up near the bottom and then remembered she's not a crawler anymore, and I had to move them up!

 These say closet, bathroom, closet.  I mean, CLOSET, BATHROOM, CLOSET

One labeled drawer and cabinet.  Her speech therapist said there's no need to label every single thing---which would be overwhelming---so just pick a few to label. 


I've already done the work to find decent images and format this stuff.  There is no need for you to start from scratch---shoot me an email ( and I would be happy to send you the word document.  You may need to tweak them (you probably don't need "PARKER'S CRATE") but at least you won't have to reinvent the wheel.  It makes me crazy that we all are constantly trying to come up with new things, and we probably could just get some great easy ideas from each other.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kristi Yamaguchi strikes again, again

I'm sitting here, staring at the computer screen, thinking that I can't believe I'm about to write another blog post about Kristi Yamaguchi.  What a strange turn of events. 

Yesterday afternoon I received an email alert about a new comment on Kristi Yamaguchi Strikes Again.  I opened the email and read "Hey, you really made an impression on Kristi! She tweeted about you today!"

Wait, what?

So I thought, "Ok, a tweet = twitter.  Where's Twitter?  How do I find Twitter?" 

I googled "Kristi Yamaguchi Twitter" and found it. 


That blue hyperlink takes you directly to the "Kristi Yamaguchi Strikes Again" post.  It's a "heartwarming story"!  The "sweet girl"  is Maya!  The "mom" is me!  (Really, no adjectives?  I would have preferred "awesome mom" or "hilarious mom".  I think tweets have a limited number of characters, so I'm going to assume that an adjective just wouldn't fit.  Yeah, that's probably it.)

And then, later last night, it showed up on her Facebook, too!

This image is more difficult to see---but that's Maya's picture, right in the first status update!  Kind of trippy to be on Kristi Yamaguchi's facebook page and see Maya's smiley picture looking back at me.


In non-Kristi-Yamaguchi-related news, I'm working on some household labels, another DIY project that I think will be pretty easy.  I'm also going to a workshop tonight on using the iPad with kids with special needs, so I'll be sure to update on that when I get a chance, too.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Feeding drama and a magic solution (that you can make, too)

For the past month, meals have been really hit or miss with Maya.  Her feeding issues have gotten more complex as she's gotten older, because the behavior challenges of toddlerhood (asserting herself, being dramatic*, etc) are coming into play.  When she first started feeding therapy, everyone agreed 100%--she wants to eat, she loves food and flavors, she just can't do it. 

But now, sometimes she's difficult because her mouth is tired or disorganized, and sometimes she's difficult because she's 2. 

And 2-year-olds are sometimes just difficult.

The basic background on Maya's eating stuff:  Progressing to purees/baby food was challenging.  Once she had a handle on purees, progressing to real stuff (yogurt, applesauce) was challenging, too.  (That started to really happen around 15 mos old).  Then, progressing to real food was a lot of work, because things just get lost in her mouth---her tongue had to learn to move the food to her teeth, her jaw had to learn to make her teeth chew.  (She still has to work a lot on the chewing, because her jaw muscles are weak.  And her mouth is still disorganized.)  We were on all "real" foods around 27 months.   Now, her diet is pretty limited to things that you don't have to chew too much:  milk, yogurt, applesauce, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, waffles, pancakes, french fries/potatoes, cheese, meatballs/meatloaf, fish sticks, spinach pancakes, soft fruits, and vegetables that are steamed and mashable, etc. 

She is fully capable of eating everything that I just listed, but suddenly she was refusing to eat for me.  She would sign that she was hungry, get in the highchair, and have a meltdown.  She would clamp her lips, throw herself to the side of the highchair, cry, take food out of her mouth after I had put it in, cover her face with her arms, etc.  Misery.  It is not fun to have to fight through every meal and snack everyday.  More than once I would have to hold her arms down, pry her mouth open, and put food in. 

A few times I thought "She must not be hungry", tossed the food, and took her out of the high chair . . . but no sooner did her feet hit the floor than she would smile and sign "Eat!"


I realized that we weren't tapping into her logic skills at all, so I tried to tell her "One bite, and then ________  (stickers, barn, whatever)."  It worked, but only for one bite.  Doing an entire meal one bite at a time takes a longggg time.

And then came the magic solution (care of our speech therapist).  It's so simple (especially if you have any knowledge of preschool stuff, the land-of-labeling-things-with-pictures) and yet so effective:


That's our new meal chart (chart?  I'm not sure if that's the right word.  But you get the idea).  The little pictures of the guy with the spoon say "eat" at the top.   The star is a "surprise".  

How we use it

Me: Maya, do you want to have some stickers?

Maya: (smiles and nods emphatically)

Me: Ok, then you need to take 3 bites of waffle (pointing to the 'eat' cards) 1-2-3, and then you get stickers! (pointing to the star)

Maya: (nods and opens her mouth to take a bite)

As she bites, I take the 'eat' pictures down and say "Great job!  That bite is done, so you have 2 more, 1-2, and then stickers!"

When the bites are done, she plays with the toy.  I keep feeding her, and sometimes she doesn't notice.  If she starts refusing food, I take that toy away, reload the 'eat' pictures, and start again.  If the toy loses its motivational factor, I get a new one.

No more drama. 

No more fighting.

The chart is 2 sided, so she's looking at the side she's working on, we're looking at the back.

In action-here she's taken 1 bite of waffle and has 2 left before she gets the school bus with the zebra and polar bear.  Obviously, school busses carry zebras and polar bears.

Do It Yourself
There are endless variations to this, but here's how ours is made:

-The standing-up part is the bottom cut off of a manilla file folder (which makes it easy to stand up).  There's a sentence strip glued onto it, and 5 velcro dots stuck on in a row. 

-The squares are color printed and laminated, with Velcro dots stuck on the back. (If you don't have a laminator, it's worth getting.  Like I said, I didn't make this, but I do laminate everything.  Maya's been carrying around a laminated picture of her with Santa since December.)  The icons are from Boardmaker, I think, but you can use any picture you want.  Just do a google image search, copy the picture to a word document, and print it up.

And you're done.   So easy.

Oh, and it's perfect to travel with, too.

At the diner, with one bite left until she gets her Santa picture.

The same idea of simple velcro visuals is often used to create schedules for the day (first you make your bed, then you take off pajamas, then you put on clothes, etc, etc), but I can see it working for other obnoxious challenging behaviors, too. 

For example, is tooth brushing a problem?  (It sometimes is for us)  Maybe one parent could brush while the other parent methodically removes numbers from a countdown, or a row of toothbrush pictures to show that time is almost up.  The possibilities are endless.

I'm sure this is a been-there-done-that post for a lot of folks with older kids, but I hope it helps someone else out there.  I think it's a great model to present ideas/routines to all kids---special needs or no special needs.

*Speaking of drama, did you see my story on FB from earlier this week about having a cry alone in the crib?  Yikes.

Friday, March 18, 2011

M is for Maya

How. freaking. cool. is. that. 


Her OT mentioned a weekish ago that maybe we should start exposing her to letters, since she can be pretty visually attentive (when she's in the mood).  So I started doodling M's here and there.  Yesterday, when the OT did an art project with her, they made a big M with markers and I hung it on the door. 

This morning during breakfast we were drawing on the high chair tray (with crayons--super fun and they wipe right up) and when I drew an M Maya turned in her chair to point at the M drawing on the door.  I thought to myself, "Does she really know M already?" and then I grabbed my phone (for video) and cut a few index cards and tried it out.  AMAZING :)

I feel the need to issue the disclaimer that I am not a general fan of pushing kids to learn letter recognition, etc before school starts----but I think if the child is interested, why not.  More importantly, for a nonverbal child, learning letters and words is huge.  It's just a happy glimpse into the future, a reassuring nugget tucked in my back pocket  . . . if spoken words take many years to come, it's ok, because recognizing words and tapping them out will be coming too, possibly sooner. 

Recognizing M is, for me, a gentle, reassuring reminder that she will understand (more) and be (more) understood with every passing day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

News & new videos

Just got around to uploading some videos from my phone.

Here's one from music class last week.  Maya's getting girly, I think.  She likes bracelets, sparkly shirts, and hair clips, unfortunately for this girl:

Here's a bit of Kristi Yamaguchi reading the beginning of her book, while Maya watches:

And the news?  We got an IEP date!!!!  It's Friday, April 1.  That's only 2 weeks away!  I am tentatively so excited to think that the preschool placement could be nailed down in 2 weeks . . . what a load off.  I may have a full head of hair come summertime :)

I think Maya will be happy too----here's a video I took in the elevator on the morning that we went to the school visit.  She's going to love school.  (You need your volume on to fully appreciate the cuteness here)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kristi Yamaguchi strikes again

After my Simple Certainty and Kristi Yamaguchi post, I got a Facebook message from a friend saying "Hey, did you know that she's coming to the Barnes & Noble on 86th St.?"  I chuckled at the idea of showing up there with Maya in tow . . .

. . . and then I thought, why not?

So we cancelled this morning's therapies and headed into the city.  Having never been to a book reading/signing, I didn't know what to expect, other than we should get there early (turns out, we didn't really need to arrive that early, but Maya loves to hang out at book stores, so it worked out well).  I packed like I was going to war---the iPad, stickers, 3 (!) cups of milk, snacks, her laminated Santa picture.  Unable to master the balancing act of the diaper bag, the food bag, the camera bag, 2 jackets, and the walker, my stroller fell over 3 times . . . each time sending nice onlookers scrambling to help as I balanced Maya on my hip and tried to collect our scattered stuff.  (Slightly embarrassing, but what can you do?)

First we bought Kristi's book (she was there to read and sign her new children's book).  Maya was delighted to have a new book.

Then we tried to figure out the seating.  The B&N folks were sooo nice.  I had to speak with them about Maya's special needs so that they would let me bring the stroller into the event room (sitting without the stroller would soon yield a whiny, floppy mess).  They kindly offered to get me "priority seating" and I was psyched . . . until I saw the priority seating.  They saved a spot front and center for my chair and Maya's stroller.  Nice, right?  But that would have put us right in front of about 60 school kid who all sat on the floor . . . not so cool.

(What's that, little Susie?  You can't see around gigantic me in this big chair?  Too bad for you!   Hooray for handicap priority seating! ---evil cackle----)

So I kindly declined and suggested that maybe I could pull an extra chair onto the edge of the row, and pull the stroller up next to it.  And that's what we did:

Maya in her stroller next to my empty chair

And it quickly got crowded:

And just as Maya was getting beyond restless, the guest of honor arrived . . .

And read her (cute) book about a little pig with big dreams . . .

And then she took some questions . . .

Right after I took this photo, the kid asked "Are you going to teach us to ice skate today?"  That must have been one disappointed kid on the walk back to school.  (Kristi giggled and said diplomatically, "Well, we don't have any ice in here . . . maybe next time.")

Then we waited in line to have our book signed.  I also had printed out 2 copies of the "Simple Certainty" post and laminated them---on one I wrote a note and I planned to leave that one with her (maybe she would get bored in a limo ride and read it.  Dream big, right?) and the other I was hoping to have her sign.  My mom also thought that I should bring a picture that I have from 1995, when I actually met Kristi at a cocktail party after a "Stars on Ice" show . . . but I thought it might be too much.  I envisioned the conversation going down like this:

"Hi Kristi.  This is my daughter---she's disabled and has to wear splints on her feet as she learns to walk, just like you did!  Here's a blog post that I wrote about you---look, I even put one of your baby pictures on top.  Also, here's a picture of you and me from 16 years ago----do you remember me?  Didn't we have fun together that night . . . "  (and then she would do the security-save-me ear tug and I would be carried out yelling "Kristi Yamaguchi, I'm not a stalker!  I promise!")

So anyway, we're waiting and the line is moving quickly.  Maya had a bit of a meltdown when we joined the line, and it was making her happy to hold one of the laminated sheets.  We step onto the stage, and this is how it went down:

Kristi: Would you like this personalized?

Me:  Yes, please, her name is Maya.  M-a-y-a.  It's so nice to meet you.  She's disabled and has splints to walk, similar to how you did (showing splints).  I write a blog read by some parents of children with special needs, and recently I spoke about you in a post (handing over laminated post), I brought a copy for you so that you could see it.

Kristi:  (finishes writing in book, looks at laminated blog post and smiles) Oh yeah, she had the same type of casts that I  . . .  oh wait, that's me! 

Me:  (blushes and feels like a stalker, even though I swear I'm not)

Me: Could you possibly sign this one for me?  (takes other laminated blog post from Maya)


Kristi: (signs blog post)


Me: Could I get a picture of you two?

Kristi: Sure!


Me: (plops Maya onto table and shoves laminated sheet in her hand, which instantly makes her stop)

Then I snapped this winning photo:

Kristi: Cheese!  Maya: (too stunned at the reappearance of the plastic paper to think straight)

And then this one:

Kristi: Cheese!  Maya: I've got to get away before this lady tries to take my plasticy sheet again.

About a second later, she tried to back off of the table, creating a momentary panic between Kristi and her press person.  No biggie.

Maya's signed book:

And my signed blog post  (in the confusion, I gave it to her upside down and she signed the back.  I was hoping to hang it up and now it won't work quite as well.  Argh.)

And that was our fun adventure.  Totally worth blowing off therapy for :)

(PS.  If someone had told me a month ago that within the span of 3 weeks I would write 2 posts involving Kristi Yamaguchi I would have thought you were nuts.  Funny how things work out.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One month

It's been one month since Maya started really walking

(****throwing confetti****)

I'm not sure what to do about her walker . . . she doesn't seem interested in it at all, and doesn't use it anymore.  But it's hard to part ways with it.  I'm torn between thinking "she can walk now, she's never going to go back to leaning on the walker and pushing it around" and "but what about when we go to the mall, or big stores?  Would she ever want to lean on it if she gets tired?"

Who knows about kids and walkers?  Once they move on, it is gone for good?  Or should we hold onto it and keep carting it around?

(Vote in the poll--top right-- to weigh in, please!)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight* (and every night, actually)

It seems that cows have been bumped from the top spot on the "Things Maya Loves" list.  Her newest obsession?  Santa. 

Last week Dave pulled out her Santa pajamas (because they were the only clean ones left are so cute) and she went crazy.  She was giggling, pointing, laughing, totally excited about SANTA on her pajamas!  Since then, she's worn them every night and is a little obsessed.

When I dumped the clean laundry on to the couch to start folding it . . . she started to giggle, toddled at full speed over to the pile, and triumphantly held up . . .


And then she did an imprompu shake-them-in-the-air dance of joy!
In hindsight, it's weirdly fitting that she's wearing her "I believe in Santa" shirt
The tricky thing about the Santa pajamas is that they are 2 piece----a top and bottoms.  Typically she sleeps in zip-up footie pajamas.  The two piece nature of the pajamas led to a surprising morning discovery the other day:

What?  I'm just taking off my pants.  I know that I've never done it before, but I've been awake for a while, I already threw my books*, and I didn't have anything better to do.

Then, the next morning . . .

What's the big deal, Mommy?
Oh, my pants?
They're on the floor.

(The Santa pants are front and center, along with her blanket, bedtime books, and assorted other stuff that got dropped out of the crib.)

You may be thinking "That's cute!"  (Or you may be thinking "What's the big deal?")  The problem was, I knew where this was heading.  First comes trying to take the pants off.  Then comes quickly taking the pants off.  What comes next, people? 

Any guesses?

The following morning . . .

(This picture is blurry and oddly shaped because it was taken on my cell phone and cropped)

Yeah, that's her diaper.  In her hands.  Luckily it was only wet and not dirty. 

Holy moly.

Check out the video below, and witness Maya's enthusiasm for Santa pajamas yourself.  One mention of the pajamas and she goes from whining about going to bed to literally beating down her own door.

*The books in the crib thing was recently mentioned on the Facebook page, as was another cute story today.  Head on over there to check it out---it's set to public, so you don't have to be "on Facebook" to see our page.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A very long retelling of Maya's preschool playdate

The play-by-play
We went to a little waiting room (with a big fish tank and some toys) to wait with another family who was also there for their playdate . . . but shortly after Maya was freed from the stroller she wanted to go explore.  I would let her toddle into the hallway, then grab her up and bring her back to the room.  The school director (which it seems is preschool talk for "principal") and head teacher came in to meet with us.  The school director started speaking with the other mom, and the head teacher started chatting with me.  When she realized that Maya wanted to wander, she said "Let's just follow her and talk" and Maya was happily allowed to roam the halls.  She stopped to peek in doorways, checked out the art on the walls, etc.

Eventually we went into the classroom that Maya will (hopefully, hopefully, hopefully) be in next year.  She pointed at the moon and stars that were on the windows (she loves to point out the moon in the sky or in books) and touched their toys and bookshelves.  She went over to the kids and checked them out.  She walked into their little coat closet area.  People were shocked that she's only been walking for a few weeks :)

Eventually we meandered back out of the classroom and into the hallway.  I continued chatting with the head teacher, and another teaching supervisor joined us.  Maya was totally amused by the hallway PT sessions (the hallways form a big square, and therapists would walk by with kids pulling wagons---or in wagons, on tricycles, etc) . . . once a little class walked by and Maya tried to follow them down the hallway :)

At the end of the playdate, we went back to the fish tank room and I spoke with the school director for a bit.  I gave them copies of the evaluations that I had, we talked about what happens next and that was that.

The stuff that matters
1.  Maya loved it there.  She's such an observer . . . whenever she's in a new place she just wants to see every piece of it, examine everything, before she shows any interest in the people.

2.  The people there totally "got" her right away.  First, every adult who walked by (and some who just poked their heads out of doorways) were all like "Oh, she's so adorablllleee!"  (obviously).  :)  But more than that, they could see her intelligence pretty quickly.  They could see her responding to the things I said ("Wipe your chin, please" "Let's walk back to the room with the fish tank" etc) and trying to tell me things too (pointing at the moon and stars, signing "eat", pointing and babbling for me to put her down).  The teachers said things like "Look at how observant she is" and "She really understands everything you say".

One of my biggest fears about school was finding a place where they really know that there's more to a kid than meets the eye----Maya will wander with her tongue protruding and drool dripping down when she's in a new place.   She's intently focused on the stuff around her and looks like a total blank slate . . . but even though she looked totally glazed over for half the visit, they could see.  They understood.  They won't underestimate her.

3.  They know how to teach everyone.  The school runs the gamut from children who are totally "typical" to children who are not independently mobile, nonverbal, etc.  They have dealt with eating issues, assistive technology, intensive PT, etc.  I have confidence in their teachers and therapists. 

4. I like their classroom philosophy.  Since they teach children with such a range of needs, they have a bunch of classrooms.  If things work out, Maya will start in the smallest classroom (where there are nearly more adults than children in the classroom, with a 6:1:2 ratio, and paraprofessionals/aides as well).  I love that the teachers and school director all said (independently) "Let's start her in X".  They often move kids into other classrooms, if they feel like they would be able to work in a larger room or with less scaffolding or whatever . . . and I like that plan (they start by moving the kids for an hour a day, and progress from there).  I also love the fact that they want her in the smallest room to start with . . . although I guess some parents might feel badly about that (maybe disappointed that their kid is one of the "neediest" at the school?) I think it's great because I want her to feel successful at school, and I think that a larger room would be overwhelming right now. 

5.  I like the vibe.  What can I say?  I'm an energy-reading type of person.  I felt great about all of the people that I spoke with----they all totally love the kids, which was evident in every hallway interaction. 

6. We were on the same page.  If I could have picked her classroom for next year, I would have picked the one they want her in.  Similarly, when I gave them the evaluations with the warning "These aren't really that accurate, just so you know" I kept my ears open.  I could hear them (the 2 teachers and school director) glancing through them saying "This doesn't make sense.  She clearly understands mom, and mom said she even knows some shapes and colors."  They picked up on the stuff that bugs me the most (that her receptive language on the evaluation was listed at basically none) right away.   The school director struck me as very kind, and slightly blunt . . . just like me!  I think that the school is a good match for Maya, and the adults aare a good match for me.

What happens next
We like the school, the school likes Maya.  They don't legally "hold spots" for kids, but right now they do have spots open.  Our meeting can't happen before April 15th (in terms of signing papers to hold a spot for Sept, that's the first day it can happen) and must happen before Maya's 3rd birthday (May 30).  Hopefully the guy will agree that it's a good fit and will approve the placement, and then during the meeting he'll call the school on the phone and say "Do you have a spot" and they'll hopefully say "Yes" and we'll sign and I will be immensely relieved that this is done.

The stuff that matters the most
My friend has a child that currently attends this school, and a few months ago she told me this story.  (Her son has just started to walk with a walker, but does not walk independently.) (I'm using italics to indicate that the story is told from her point of view---because it's easier to write it in the first person---but the words are mine, this isn't copied from an email or anything.  And the story is shared with her permission :) )

Last week we got a notice home from the school about an after school soccer program, which I tossed, seeing as -child- doesn't walk yet.  Then a few days later when I picked him up from school, the teacher said "He did great at soccer today!"  and I was like . . . "Um, what?"

Turns out, soccer was also happening during part of the school day.  And when I asked how my kid was possibly playing soccer, the teachers were all nonchalantly like "Oh, I just hold him on this side . . . and she holds him on that side . . . we count '1, 2, 3, kick!' and swing him.  He loves it!

And that's when I was like "I want Maya at that school."

That's possibly the sweetest story you've ever heard, right?

And that sums up the vibe---a school run by intelligent, creative, loving adults who I know will challenge Maya (and assist her) to learn and do all kinds of great stuff. 

If we get in.

Parker's half sister

Parker's half sister is currently available for sale, if anyone is interested in an adorable 6 month old black standard poodle puppy.  I posted a video of her on our Facebook page----she's being fostered and trained right now by Parker's first human mom, who's really incredible with puppies :)

If you're interested, email me and I can't put you in touch with her---the puppy is in Connecticut.

Warning:  The puppy cuteness (and intelligence/obedience) in the video is overwhelming :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Preschool, books, and accessibility

Maya had her preschool playdate yesterday.  I'll type up the details about it later (this weekend? Monday?) but for now, let me just say that it went well :)  It's definitely where I want her to be, and they liked her a bunch too---it's not a done deal until the IEP official signs off on the placement, so I'm not breathing a sigh of relief yet, but I'm hopeful.

On the way to the car for the playdate yesterday, this is what Maya was reading in the stroller:

Yikes. She found it on the floor and refused to trade it in for one of her books.

Clearly, we were in need of some new reading material . . . and luckily for us, today there was a big used book sale at a local school.  This school is pretty ritzy, and I swear that some of the books that were donated by the parents seem like they've never been read (like lift-the-flap books that had no crease in them from, you know, lifting the flaps). 

I brought big bags and a backpack and I had my game face on.  We cleaned up!  It ended up being a little bit tricky to walk home carrying the 41 lbs (yeah, I weighed it, because I'm a nerd) of books home, but it was totally worth it.

Maya loves books and was clearly excited with our bounty:

She's blurry because she was wiggling & squeaking with excitement as I started to unload the books. 

She was so excited that she started to rock . . .

Whoops :)

Check out all of the great stuff we got:

Board books
Hardcover books

Paperback books


(We also got a box set of Sesame Street mini board books, but the picture was blurry)

When all was said and done, it ended up being 70 books and 4 dvds for $80.  A great deal, right?  I mean, I don't throw around money on toys and books like that very often, but I feel like I was basically able to buy an entire library for her.  And she was SO HAPPY :)


On a totally different note, the building was not AT ALL handicap accessible.  After getting into the building, I had no idea how I was going to make it down the 3 flights of stairs to the book sale with Maya and the jogging stroller.  I ended up having to take her out, carry her downstairs, and enlisted a student (a 5th grade boy who was so sweet) to help me.  He would wait at the landing of the stairs with Maya, holding on to her arm so she couldn't wander off, while I carried the giant stroller down each flight. 

Someday Maya will be able to climb stairs, and I could technically stop caring about things like handicap accessibility, but I really think that it's an issue we should all be working to resolve.  Could you imagine if you were in a wheelchair and had to dread entering a new building, thinking "I already stand out because I'm in a chair, now I may have to ask strangers to help carry me somewhere?"  What an injustice.  It makes me think of an old Ani DiFranco quote:

"Cause I know the biggest crime is just to throw up your hands . . . .
Say 'This has nothing to do with me, I just want to live as comfortably as I can'"

I don't know how people can help to make buildings more accessible, but it's something that I think about now.  I would imagine that there must be some way to legally force the issue, as the ADA must have some provisions in it about accessibility.