Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rare condition gives toddler super strength

Wow! Who even knew there was such a thing? Very interesting article.

From the AP:

Dana Hoekstra said her suspicion that Liam was physically different quickly intensified. Two days after he was born, Liam could stand up and support his weight if someone held his hands to provide balance, she said.

His heart and kidneys healed within a few months, but it took 18 months before he stopped throwing up daily.

Liam's muscular thighs at 5 months of age gave him the appearance of a miniature Lance Armstrong. By 8 months, Liam was doing pull-ups and, a month later, climbing up and down stairs, his mother said.

What really amazed his parents was the way Liam fell.

"When he fell backward, he would land on his butt, but he never hit his head on the ground," Dana Hoekstra said. "His stomach would tense up and he would catch himself before his head hit the ground. You could see his stomach muscles. He had a little six-pack."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday and a fresh boo-boo for the collection

Classic Monday.

Running around outside, keeping Shea busy while we are waiting for the special bus. He has afternoon preschool and I try to do some physical activities right before school so he will be in a good space for the sittin' and listenin' that makes school so much fun and challenging for the little guys.

Soccer, chicken chasing, up and down the gravel driveway. I was feeling really happy that he hadn't tripped and bunged himself up with a new boo-boo right before the bus rolls in.

So what happens? The bus rolls in and, as if on cue, Shea sits down on the milk box on our front porch and manages to pinch his finger hard! Wicked hard by the way he screamed his head off. And, he is pretty tough about pain. We call him our little hockey player because he takes a hit and bounces right back up.

Me, anxious, fretful mommy, trying to strap him into his harness while he is screaming, big fat tears rolling down his cheeks. Feeling like bad mommy for even sending him off to school that way. Kiss, kiss. Huggy. "You will be fine, buddy." Cringing as I walk away while he is still hollering loudly.

For me, one of the best feelings of the day is when the school bus drives off and I know my youngest kid is off to school where he will have fun and give me a few hours to do my thing. You know that freshly dropped off feeling? Or the wonderfully unencumbered feeling? Well, not today. Not for me.

The bus drove off and I could still hear his crying inside my head.

Like I said, classic Monday.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Survival instinct

From: www.hoax-slayer.com/prosthetic-leg-pony.shtml

Meet Molly. She's a grey speckled pony who was abandoned by her owners when Hurricane Katrina hit southern Louisiana . She spent weeks on her own before finally being rescued and taken to a farm where abandoned animals were stockpiled.

While there, she was attacked by a pit bull terrier and almost died. Her gnawed right front leg became
infected, and her vet went to LSU for help, but LSU was overwhelmed, and this pony was a welfare case. You know how that goes.

But after surgeon Rustin Moore met Molly, he changed his mind.He saw how the pony was careful to lie down on different sides so she didn't seem to get sores, and how she allowed people to handle her.She protected her injured leg.She constantly shifted her weight and didn't overload her good leg. She was a smart pony with a serious survival ethic.

Moore agreed to remove her leg below the knee, and a temporary artificial limb was built. Molly walked out of the clinic and her story really begins there.

'This was the right horse and the right owner,'Moore insists.

Molly happened to be a one-in-a-million patient.

She's tough as nails, but sweet, and she was willing to cope with pain. She made it obvious she understood that she was in trouble.The other important factor, according to Moore, is having a truly committed and compliant owner who is dedicated to providing the daily care required over the lifetime of the horse.

Molly's story turns into a parable for life in Post-Katrina Louisiana ...

The little pony gained weight, and her mane finally felt a comb.

A human prosthesis designer built her a leg.

The prosthetic has given Molly a whole new life, Allison Barca DVM, Molly's regular vet, reports.

And she asks for it. She will put her little limb out, and come to you and let you know that she wants you to put it on. Sometimes she wants you to take it off too. And sometimes, Molly gets away from Barca. 'It can be pretty bad when you can't catch a three-legged horse,' she laughs.

Most important of all, Molly has a job now. Kay, the rescue farm owner, started taking Molly to shelters, hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers. Anywhere she thought that people needed hope. Wherever Molly went, she showed people her pluck. She inspired people, and she had a good time doing it.

'It's obvious to me that Molly had a bigger role to play in life, Moore said. She survived the hurricane, she survived a horrible injury, and now she is giving hope to others.'

Barca concluded, 'She's not back to normal, but she's going to be better.To me, she could be a symbol for New Orleans itself.'

Are we there yet?



Saturday, March 28, 2009

Trouble maker

I got word that Shea has been getting into trouble from his teacher at the developmental preschool. Apparently, he has been being a real little shit lately.

Little shit is my term not hers and it means:

Won't line up after recess, won't come when called, will hide or climb to the top of the climber to evade the teachers.

Also, he is having a hard time settling down in the classroom. Once he is seated and working or listening, he is ok. But as soon as he is up, he is bouncing off the walls, runs won't walk and won't keep his hands to himself.

This is the kind of thing that doesn't work in the highly structured environment on a public developmental preschool.

She was trying to get him to comply by saying he would miss recess the next day if he doesn't come line up by the count of 5. Well, oblivious Shea doesn't get that sort of punishment when it is delayed by a day. He had no problem missing recess the next day. He hung out inside and helped one of the teachers clean up. He probably thought it was his special alone time with that teacher. Probably not a real successful deterrent.

I suggested that if he won't come line up after recess is over, she should tell him that she was going to call his mommy (the ogress) and she was going to come and take him home for the day. That way I can be the bad cop and he can get the idea immediately that he needs to change his behavior. Let's hope that works.

I have been noticing lately that he is acting like he has bee eating wheat. He gets sort of spacey and swoony and keeps on bumping into you with his head when he eats wheat. But, we are really careful about what he eats plus he is a very picky eater so I know nothing contraband is sneaking through.

So, when Jake dropped him off at the OT's yesterday and she asked how he has been, he said,"Fine but he sure is acting like he is eating wheat lately."

She suggested that it might be the extremely high tree pollen count right now. Huh?

Yes, apparently the histamines that your body produces when you have allergies are neurotransmitters and can effect behaviors. She said that she has noticed a whole bunch of kids are having allergy and behavior problems right now. Symptoms may not be the traditional scratchy eyes and runny nose but behavioral issues too. And, that some children, especially kids who are sensitive to allergies already, can be highly effected by it.

Wow, now I hadn't heard that before! She suggested we try more allergy tests to see what we can find out. Again, wow, I just thought that was really interesting.

I will give our naturpathic doctor a call on Monday and just what these tests entail. He needs his 5 year old check up anyway and maybe we should just get it take care of at once.

Who knows, maybe it does have something to do with the trees?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Happy "F"day!

No, I am not being profane! I might mean happy Friday as well, all of us I am sure, have had a hell of a long week.

But, what I really mean is "F" day. You know, like the letter.

It looks like Shea may have finally mastered the "F" sound today with Bubble. "F" is one of the classic tough letter sounds that take a lot of lip and mouth control. Shea would just skip the whole sound and put something easier in it's place.

Like:

Sunny for Funny
Serry boat for Ferry boat
Sog for Frog

You get the idea.

Interestingly, he didn't seem to have a problem with putting the "F" sound on the end of a word.

Off, Cough, Yaff (laugh), you already know about that pesky "L".

But, today Shea was full of F's: funny, found, ferry boat. They seemed to come easily, without him stuggling. In fact, he didn't even seem to think twice about it.

Our work this week is to keep them coming. Don't let him slip back to old easier pre-F days.

When it was time to go, Shea said, "I no want to go." When pressed he said, "Stay with Bubble. I miss Bubble."

Bubble said, "Shea, you will always, always be my very special friend." He then went over and gave her a big long hug that melted good old Bubble to blurry tears.

She said, "Shea you have made my day."

Thanks Bubble, you have made our day too. A very Fine Friday to us all.

We have come a long way, baby!

Two years ago when Shea was just about to turn 3 we were trying to get him to blow a cotton ball across the table. Just getting his mouth to work and blowing with enough force was an exercise that we worked on for quite a while. It seems like an age ago.

Referred from a friend, we were also just beginning private speech therapy with Bubble lady. He wasn't speaking at all. He was coming along well with signing, the whole family was and most of my excitement and enthusiasm at that time was over those strides.

Bubble took the signing as a good indication but never really pursued it with her therapy. She was going to teach Shea to talk and at first it was painful to watch. Sometimes it still is.

I remember a day where Shea was pushing cars on her window sill. Bubble gently took them away. Shea maybe grunted his annoyance but just stood there watching and waiting for what came next.

"1...2...3...Go!" She said and she pushed the car to him. "1...2...3...Go!" She said and he pushed it back.

Again, "1...2...3............................?" Waiting for Shea to say go was one the longest, most anguishing waits of my entire life. I literally screamed "GO!!!" in my head, again and again. Internally, I pleaded for him to just do it. I physically squirmed, it was so uncomfortable to watch. Bubble kept her cool. He knew what she wanted him to do. All he had to do was try.

I am not sure how long she coaxed and prompted him with the "1...2...3...?", multiple minutes perhaps which seemed like days, but he eventually said something that was a close enough approximation to "Go" that they could move on. They did those over and over again.

Bubble cheered and congratulated Shea on this big hurdle but I was a wreck. It was a very hard thing to watch. Like watching paint dry while having your heart rolled in ground glass.

There are a lot of little stories like that but my point for this post is how far he has come. Time is an amazing thing especially for the little guys. So much can happen in a year or two.

As we near Shea's 5th birthday, I am hopeful. He has come so far. I still don't know what it all means but we are still moving forward.

As I type, Shea has just come down from his bedroom ready for snuggies and interested in what I am doing on the computer.

So, I point out to him a simple, familiar childhood mini-sentence and he reads out loud to me, "1...2...3...Go!"

Yes, baby, you have come a long way.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Where are the "L's"?

One of the hardest, last to really try letters for Shea is L. He will place the letter "Y" or some other letter in its place in a word.

"Yeyo" for yellow
"Mowee" for Molly
"I yuv you" for I love you

You get the idea.

Bubble says that L is a difficult articulation for kids, all kids in fact. But especially for Shea.

Say it to yourself. L, L, L, L. Feel your tongue tip rest gently on your upper teeth? That is the sort of sophisticated and nuanced tongue movements that Shea really stumbles on.

The good news is that he approximates the "L" sound with another letter sound now. He used to not even try. That was the apex of fright and frustration for me. When your kid won't even try.

It may be a while before we will ever get it.

This morning, I called up the stairs, "Shea?"

"Yeah?" he yelled back.

"Honey, come on down for some cocoa."

"Ok, I coming."

I stopped, surprised and pleased and said to Jake and Molly. "That sounds like a kid who can talk."

He will get there...eventually.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Where do we find our answers?

I was thinking about good advise and where we get it. Usually one would take direction from those who have been there before. And, hopefully, we all have access to this. Maybe we are all blogging or reading blogs just for that one reason. Acquiring good advise is golden and worth the search.

Sometimes we are lucky enough to find direction from someone who has literally walked the road.

Therefore, tonight's post belongs to Cale, a profoundly eloquent young man from Spectrum Siblings, a blog written from the perspective of one who is on the Autism spectrum himself. He has a very valuable "1st hand" perspective to share and his wisdom is evident.

In this wonderful post, he advises parents:
  • Remember that your child is the same person he was before the doctor said “I think it’s autism”. The diagnosis is not a death sentence, it’s a way for you to learn more about your child and find strategies which will help him be as successful as he can be.
  • Don’t become disheartened by the gaps between your child and Nts or your child and some higher functioning autistics. The fact is that a prognosis cannot be made based upon a child’s behavior at two or three. Some will begin to blossom in a few years or even a few months. Some fully functional adults spent their first five years flapping in a corner.
  • Autism should not squelch your dreams for your child. You may need to adjust some of your dreams, but there will also be new dreams. And you can wind up amazed at what your son/daughter can accomplish.
  • It is important that you find therapies that will help your child. But it will do you or your child no good to beat yourself up over the “I should have seen this before; I should have gotten him into early intervention; I should have X Y Z” The whole notion of a window of opportunity after which the gate shuts closed simply isn’t true. Work with what you can now.
  • Know that there is sooo much information out there when you know where to look for it. Connect with a blogger online and follow her links. There are moms with kids at all points on the spectrum blogging about what works for their kids, and there are autistic and asperger’s individuals blogging about themselves. There are books packed dense with information; more than you could read in a lifetime.
  • Find support. Raising a kid with special needs is difficult, and going through it alone will only make it worse. Whether it’s through a local support group, on the phone with a caring relative, or on the internet, find someone you can vent to. You can only be a good resource for your child when your basic needs are taken care of.
  • Remember your kid is still a kid. Yes, you’ll want to sign him up for every therapy out there, but don’t forget to schedule free time. Time when he can do what he wants without someone trying to teach him at every corner.

Fire! Fire! Fire! ...just kidding...

Last night at about 1:00 AM the smoke alarm went off in our house! Blareing just above our heads in our new bedroom, I jumped out of bed and wasn't even really aware of what I was doing until I turned on the overhead light and then it stopped.

I stood paralyzed for an instant and listened, "Any unusual sounds?" Nope, all was quiet...now.

Very confused with chest pounding I surveyed the house for signs of smoke. Nothing. Climbed the stairs to check the kids. All was quiet. No smoldering embers. Nothing.

What the heck just happened? Fluke? Accident? Power surge?

Heart still pounding I came back to the bedroom, "Did you hear that too?" I asked Jake, thinking I might've just dreamed the whole thing.

"Heck yes, I heard that." He said and got up to survey the house for the himself too.

Needless to say, very weird and pretty damn scary. And, it sure took us a bit to get back to sleep after that rush of adrenalin.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Emotional highs and lows

I have always been a bit emotionally manic; highs real high and lows real low. Perhaps not as bad as I used to be although I expect that could be up for debate with my dear family.

When I was in my 20's I thought hard about a chemical imbalance and even asked my doctor at the time. She said she could prescribe something and I could try it right away to see if it worked. I guess, I was a little shocked at the trial and error factor that seemed to pervade the entire discussion. That and her willingness to pile me high with a bunch of free samples right then and there.

I guess I was looking for something a little more...scientific. You know, like a blood test? Or some magic thingy that could detect a certain something wasn't right and, yes indeed, I could try this pill and maybe I would feel better. Well, it isn't that simple. It is a leap of faith and in all honesty, I just never had that much faith in pharmiceutical companies.

Don't get me wrong. I have many friends who have found anti-depressants to literally transform their lives for the better. And, I take my hat off to medical science.

But, I left the doctor's office saying I would think about it and never pursued it. I just continued to live with my moods, the dips and valleys of my normal life.

Then I had my first kid and yes, I was very aware of the hormone cocktail, the not quite thinking rationally, the quick to anger, cry and/or scream. They call if baby blues and I am sure I had it.

Not as bad as many. I met a woman who said that she was afraid to unload the dishwasher when her baby was around because she was scared that she would stab him with a sharp knife!!!

No. I never felt like that. And, I sure hope that gal took my advise and spoke with her doctor about that. Baby blues isn't funny and should be taken very, very seriously.

I remember having a "moods and emotional roller coaster" conversation with a different doctor when I was about 36. I thought I could be pre-menopausal and that maybe, again, I should ask someone about a chemical imbalance. She took blood this time to get an estrogen count and she said there still was plenty pumping through. So, pre-menopause wasn't the answer.

"Well, then how come I have no sex drive and I'm crabby as all get out!" I enquired. She clucked at me about "lubricants" and offered me a stack of anti-depressants so I could trot the "trial and error" personal chemical balancing act again.

I just couldn't go there. "No but thanks anyway." I was on my own.

I remember something changing in my mood when my first child was about 3. It seemed to take that long to feel normal again. Something lifted. Coping was easier. Then right after she turned 5, I suddenly felt like I was back in the swing. I felt good! Physically and mentally!

In fact, back in the swing enough to promptly get pregnant. And, this time baby blues really hit. No stabbing my kid worries but grim dispair, irrational moods, quick to anger, paranoia, crabby and overwhelmed.

This time my GGF (good girl friend) took me aside and said, "You are sinking, girl. I need you to do something." I told her my history and how I really, really, really didn't want to try anti-depressants. She suggested something else; a vitamin suppliment called Levity. What?

Levity is a new product discovery addressing the area of emotional and mental health. An all-natural and safe dietary supplement, Levity can provide support for overall emotional and mental well being. As a total formula, and when combined with the other easy-to-follow components of the LEVITY Program, the nutrients in Levity were clinically proven to provide relief for "vegetative symptoms of depression", otherwise known as the "Body Blues". Each of the vitamin ingredients contained in Levity have been shown to be effective in modulating depression and supporting a healthy mood. A deficiency in any of Levity's key vitamin nutrients can cause disturbances in the body's ability to effectively regulate mood."

What the heck do I have to loose? I gave it a try.

Working in conjuction with a regular routine of moderate excercise, it really seemed to help almost immediately. Nothing I could really put my finger on but I didn't feel so edgy or quick to fly off the handle. After only a couple of days, I felt more "even", less extreme, more in control of myself.

Levity comes in a multi-vitamin too so I have just kept on taking it. And, if I miss several days, I sort of notice something is different. Again, not a major difference but a certain leveling out seems to fade. For almost 5 years, I take it every morning.

Am I still manic? Yes, I think so. Stress really gets to me and circumstances beyond my control; work, money, sad things all can set me into a tail spin. And, although I consider myself an optimistic person, I am naturally very highly skeptical and leery of the prevelant injustices in this world. Because, I am a good political lefty, my heart bleeds at the daily evidence of this. Horrified, in fact, by the knowledge that there is not much I can personally do to change it.

Such is life, I expect, when you are given the gift to feel very deeply.

So, now that I am in my 40's, I have found my little pill to improve my mood. All the better that it is a vitamin suppliment full of stuff I need anyway. If it helps, it helps. If it doesn't but I think it does, well then that is ok too.

Maybe that is what the 40's are all about; acceptance and realizing that we all have our limitations. And, there is a road through it no matter what.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stressed out and feeling bleak?

I know I shouldn't just blog when I am feeling good. I shouldn't just write about the happy or poignant stuff in life. Real life isn't like that, we all know. The good, bad and the ugly.

Unfortunately, I don't ever know what to write about when I am down or stressed or crabby or scared. Heaven forbid writing about being stressed, crabby or scared! What a droll read that would be.

But, in all actuality when I am not feeling very chipper is probably the best time for me to write instead of living inside my head and feeling sorry for myself.

What do you do when you are stressed out and feeling bleak?

I escape. Novels are good. Pile them up and whip through them like chocolates. Funny movies? Yes, that's works too.

Last night, I rented Raising Arizona, a late 80's classic by the Cohn brothers with Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter. Molly and I were scrolling through I-tunes movies and we started getting to the old stuff. Suddenly, I remembered Raising Arizona as one of my all time favorite movies on the planet. Was Molly ready for it? I thought so and we gave it a whirl last night.

First, in preparation, I explained several times, that the whole movie was about people making very bad decisions. But, after all that hand wringing, Molly loved it.

We laughed hard and tried to ignore the potty mouth. I felt nostalgic for all those wacky 80's fashions. Did we really wear that stuff?

It was fun and I am tempted to watch it again right now.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The reviews are in: Willy Wonka cast broke a leg

Ok. It was standing room only for the last night of the highly acclaimed elementary school production of Willy Wonka. There wasn't a vacant uncomfortable metal chair in the room. Parents, grandparents, siblings, babysitters; it was a friendly crowd assembled and ready to cheer.

First, let me say; wow those kids worked hard! Since December they have been working on this play; sets, costume, tunes, lines, special effects. This play had it all.

Now, down to the important part; how did my kid do? FABULOUS!!! Of course! She sparkled, she shined, she blushed, she hammed it up. Her singing was crisp and on tune and projected to the back of the the room. Which, believe me, in this crowd was a plus.

Basically, the old theater bug has done bit.

She was still buzzing off the audience high when I asked her, "Are you sad that it is over?"

"Yes. It was so much fun." she said, still pink from pride and giggling.

Ok. This is something I can't relate to. I get performance anxiety just thinking about her performing but she seems to thrive on it.

All and all a good experience. Something I never had when I was young but am jolly darn proud that she seems to like it.

Huge accolades to the music teacher, Ms. S, for her herculean efforts. She has started a tradition now whether she wants to or not.

Wow, does this island love a show!?!

Peeking at another world

I went to pick up Shea early at his morning pre-school today. He goes to this adorable little Montessori school Wednesday and Thursday mornings 9 - 12. This was partly a move toward my goal of having him spend more time with typically developing peers. Plus, honestly, I just needed some time in the mornings to work and get stuff done.

For the most part it has worked out pretty well.

Transitions can be hard for any kid and Shea is no different. So, I have taken to arriving a little early so that we can spend 10 minutes or so walking in the forest trails surrounding the school and just chill before I have to bundle him back home, get him changed, feed him lunch and get him ready for the special school bus to pick him up for afternoon pre-school at 12:30. Whew! No wonder he has a tough time with that transition! It is a bit of a whirlwind.

Usually by the time I arrive all the kids are running around top speed outside for "recess". Shea will spot me and, on good days, run up to me yelling, "Mommy!!!" with a big hug. Sometimes, it isn't so nice; tears, being in trouble for hitting, taking a time out, etc.

When Shea is really worked up physically or excited, his verbal capabilities just seem to shut down. What he might be able to express when calm and relaxed just can't come out when he is cranked up. So, we have had too many melt downs right at the end of recess when I am about to take him home.

Eureka: I would rather forgo a few minutes of alone time for a calm, peaceful kid at pick up time.

So, like I said, I arrived earlier than usual today and got to sit inside and watch the class in action which I had never really done before. If you do not know, Montessori basically has the belief that you should be responsible for yourself, choose what you want to do, pick up after yourself and follow the rules of the school. I thought it was a pretty good fit with the very structured Developmental Preschool model that he has in the afternoons.

Shea was sitting down and eating his snack with another little boy. There were kids sitting down with the teacher talking about what birds they have seen. There were several kids choosing to do something else, like work on a tower, hang out in the play kitchen, etc. All was calm and happy.

I guess I was struck at how engaged Shea seemed. Even though he was eating his snack, he seemed to be listening to everything that was being said by the teacher. He seemed interested and in good spirits. He smiled and was happy to see me when I arrived. He seemed to be part of the whole. When the teacher asked him to tidy up his snack spot, he went and got a little broom and dustpan and swept up the crumbs without complaint. (!)

By this time, it was time to go. I did a little zipper help with the other kids and then the teacher decided that they could all come on the trail walk with us. I could tell that Shea liked the idea but that it was a little frenetic with all the kids running and jockeying for the lead. We went with the pack and then split off on our own so that we could capture that sweet, quiet chill spot that seems to happen when it is just us together.

So, with all the ups and downs, I think the AM school is a good fit. I think I will ask for another year of Developmental Preschool for next year and push Kindergarten off. I think we will continue with the morning pre-school as long as it still feels right.

Isn't that how it goes? Instinct. It's really the only thing we have to go on sometimes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

IEP meeting prep

A date has been set. For those of you who don't know, Shea's birthday is April 20th. He will be 5.

The school is supposed to do the IEP meeting at or before the birthday to be completely compliant. Last year our meeting didn't happen until late May. Which was only one of the several problems with Shea's teacher last year which, of course, I covered extensively with this blog post and this one too.

We are much happier with the teacher this year, thank goodness. But, IEP meeting are still a bitch. After going through this a couple of times, I have determined a fledgling routine.

A month out, like right about now, I talk to all the specialists and ask them if they have any suggestions for the school or specifics to add to the IEP. This has been very helpful in the past. Not only do they bring up really good ideas but they give you the edu-speak terminology on how to ask for it. And, oh yes, it is a different language. And, just like in a foreign country; if you can't speak it, you don't get it.

So, I am beginning to pull all that together now. If I time it right, I allow the specialists a few weeks to ponder it and they always come up with very good suggestions.

My big concern this time around is to Kindergarten or not to Kindergarten next year.

I mean he is only 5. Plenty of typical kids, especially boys, don't start Kindergarten until 6 but I don't want him to be bored. Will another year of cutting and pasting and working on his expressive language be dull? In my heart, I don't think so. Why push him ahead when he is clearly not ready. Socially or fine motor either.

I know I am not supposed to do this but when Molly was 5 she was so precociously quick that I knew she was ready. Shea has never been that way. He isn't even writing letters. He knows his alphabet and counts but doesn't write at all. They will expect that in Kindergarten. Why should I push him in there knowing that he isn't ready. Then, again, there is the school of thought that you set the bar high. Kindergarten for Shea next year would be setting the bar high indeed.

Writing and his expressive language delay, some social issues and the complete lack of potty training makes me think another year in the Developmental Preschool sure couldn't hurt. And, will probably be a nice, comfortable place to be while he continues to work on some of this stuff.

So, this is where I try to peel my mother's mind away from my rational mind. Am I making this decision purely to protect him as long as I can? Probably. Will he be bored? Hard to know. Will he fail? Probably but is that so bad? If everything is too easy for him will he never learn to strive? Maybe. If I hold him back will he be the biggest kid in his grade? And, if so will he pick on the littler kids? Hmmm........

This is a perfect example of the ambiguity of parenthood. Where in the heck is that instruction manual? What to do, what to do?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Depression Cooking: Pasta with peas



I just love her. Don't you?

She has some great stories from the depression and her recipes are awesome.

You go, Clara! Keep on keepin' on!

A Tribute to an Irish Mother by Joe Biden

My mother Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden is the soul, spirit, and essence of what it means to be an Irish American. She honors tradition and understands the thickest of all substances is blood.

She has taught her children, and all children who flocked to her hearth in my neighborhood, that you are defined by your sense of honor and you are redeemed by your loyalty.

She is the quintessential combination of pragmatism and optimism.

She also understands as my friend Pat Moynihan once said, there is no "point in being Irish if you don't know that the world is going to break your heart eventually."

But she is more. She measures success in how quickly you get up after you have been knocked down. She believes bravery lives in every heart, and her expectation is that it will be summoned.

Failure at some point in everyone's life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable. As long as you are alive you have an obligation to strive. And you are not dead until you've seen the face of God.

My mother, I believe, is a living portrait of what it means to be Irish -- proud on the edge of defiance. Generous to a fault; committed to the end. She not only made me believe in myself, but scores of my friends and acquaintances believe in themselves.

As a child I stuttered, and she said it was because I was so bright I couldn't get the thoughts out quickly enough. When my face was dirty, and I was not as well dressed as others, she told me how handsome I was.

When my wife and daughter were killed, she told me God sends no cross a man is not able to bear.

And when I triumphed, she reminded me it was because of others.

I remember her watching through the kitchen window as I got knocked down by two bigger guys behind my grandfather's house, and she sent me back out and demanded that I, to use their phrase, bloody their nose, so I could walk down that alley the next day.

When my father quit his job on the spot because his abusive boss threw a bucket full of silver dollars on the floor of a car dealership to make a point about his employees, she told him how proud she was.

No one is better than you. You are every man's equal and everyone is equal to you. You must be a man of your words, for without your words you're not a man.

Her pragmatism showed up when I was in eighth grade, a lieutenant on the safety patrol. My job was to keep order on the bus. My sister and best friend Valerie acted up. At dinner that night I told my mother and father I had a dilemma. I had to turn my sister in as a matter of honor. My parents said that was not my only option. The next day I turned my badge in.

I believe the traits that make my mother a remarkable woman mirror the traits that make the Irish a remarkable people. Bent, but never bowed. Economically deprived, but spiritually enriched. Denied an education, but a land of scholars and poets.

When I think of my mother I think of the Irish poem 'Any Woman' by Katherine Tynan:
"I am the pillars of the house; The keystone of the arch am I. Take me away, and roof and wall Would fall to ruin utterly. I am the fire upon the hearth, I am the light of the good sun, I am the heat that warms the earth, Which else were colder than a stone."

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Patrick' day or our Valentine's day

Yes, indeed. Jake and I met on St. Patrick's day....at Murphy's Irish Pub in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle.

Oh, it was romantic; green beer, raving lunitics, very loud celtic tunes. I remember it well.

I had just gotten back from a 2 week trip to Spain (!) and Jake had just rolled into town from the E. Coast. He was staying with a friend and was fixed up on a blind date for St. Patrick's day. And, drum roll please, she didn't show up!

Murphy's, of course, was my local pub. It was my "Cheers" or my extended living room. I ate dinner and drank excellent micro-brews there 2 to 3 times a week. They knew my name. There was some history. Located just up the street from my little apartment in the the upstairs of a house with a killer view of Seattle and Lake Union. And, cheap!! $350 a month, boy, those were the days.

I was chock full of the kind of confidence that international travel gives you upon returning home and planned to make a night of it with my old pal Marybeth. We boldly snuck through the back way because, hey, I was a regular.

Jake and his friends had to wait in a ridiculous line that ran down the street.

Somehow at about 8:30 we collided. I swung my head around and spotted him standing near by.

"Hi. Who are you?" came out before I could think better of it.

"Jake. Who are you?" He returned with an arched eyebrow.

The rest is, as they say, history.

17 years ago this St. Patrick's Day.

I always found our meeting incredibly ironic. Partly due to Jake's excessive Irish heritage; 3rd generation Irish immigrants and partially because he was only in town for a month or so when we met. I liked to say that us local girls had to grab the guys from out of town quickly because all the local guys were SNAGs (sensitive new age guys) or (sensitive NW guys) depending on how you pronounce it.

But, Jake wasn't particularly sensitive but he was wicked handsome, very intelligent, razor sharp wit and strong enough to do battle with me.

So, 17 years and still going. Like Jake's dad always says after each anniversary, their last being 60 years, "I'll give it one more year and see if it works out."

Here's to one my year, babe. Have a green beer. Cheers.

Bye Seattle P-I, it's been real.

After 146 years, the Seattle P-I is going bye-bye for good. Apparently, it will continue to live on virtually via the Internets. In fact, being one of the first papers, perhaps not the last, to take this step.

Seattle's only AM paper is/was an every morning institution for my parents. They are bummed, annoyed, pissed and sad to see it go. For as many years as I can recall, they would each read snippets of the paper to each other as they ate breakfast and sipped coffee.

It was their waking up ritual and I thought it was pretty darn sweet. My mom jokes about having dueling laptops on the breakfast table but somehow I can't see it.

I remember my mom going through every single classified ad in the paper each day. Just to see if there was any good deals on "whatever". Now, in the days of Craigslist, the classifieds section is a shadow of its former self and is probably one of the nails in the coffin.

So, for you, Ruth & John, I bid a kind farewell to a jolly little paper. I am sad, for you, to see it go. But, at least we still get the globe. The P-I globe, a beloved Seattle icon, isn't going anywhere!

From the Seattle Times:

"The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the city's oldest newspaper, will roll off the presses for the last time Tuesday, its owner said today.

The Hearst Corp. also said it will keep the the P-I alive online "as a new type of digital business with a robust, community news and information Web site at its core."

P-I Publisher Roger Oglesby said in an interview that the online venture would have a professional news staff of about 20 or 25. The vast majority of the P-I's 167 employees, almost all in news, will lose their jobs.

Hearst Newspapers President Steven Swartzsaid in a prepared statement that the site also would have "new columns from prominent Seattle residents; more than 150 reader blogs, community data bases and photo galleries." It also will link to other local Web sites and blogs, he added."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

IKEA virgin

Yesterday, I took Molly for her very first shopping trip to IKEA. I thought I would let her go a little wild so that she could trick out her new room. She has been a real trooper all this time and I thought she really deserved to personalize her room with a new comforter cover/pillow cases, some unique storage contraptions and some fun things for her walls. Plus, I needed a few things so we took the whole day, just us, and had a really great time.

Not to make a trashy post focusing on consumerism although IKEA rocks...hard. But, it got me thinking about the difference in my daughter as she is growing up.

There was a time when a trip to IKEA would have been hell warmed over. She would have been ok to stay in the "ball room" for a while but would have eventually nagged us right out the door. Needless to say, this is why I have never taken her before. Why go if you couldn't care less about checking out cool lamps?

But that attitude is gone; stashed away with the fairy wings and the Pony Pal books. She is my big girl now and we easily killed 2 hours just shopping.

"Hey, mom, look at this!" "Wow, check this out!" "Wouldn't this be cool?" etc, etc, etc.

Needless to say, we had barely got all the goodies into the car when we were planning another trip soon because it was so much fun. The usual IKEA problem.

And, it wasn't all just buy, buy, buying. Remember, we live on an island so there is the inevitable ferry trip to get anywhere. Some of the best conversations I have with my kids are stuck in the car on the ferry.

Yesterday was no different. She mentioned that she was nervous about the upcoming play because of one boy in her math class who has been mocking her. We spent a lot of time brainstorming superior snark to throw at the kid if he dares to make fun of her. We got silly. We were over the top. But some good points were made and some secrets were shared; who likes who at school, who said what to whom and other 5th grade ponderings.

Amazing.

"Wow, thanks Molly, for being so fun to hang out with." And, she said, "Yeah, mom, thank you for being so fun to hang out with too! I had a blast."

I'll be sure to stash that day in the permanent memory file. It's a keeper.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Comparisons...never a good idea

Don't compare. That should be a hard and fast rule. You would think I would know that by now.

When I was in high school, I had a poster of Albert Einstein on my wall with this quote, "Do not compare yourself with others, for you will always find someone better and worse than yourself." Or something close to that.

At the time, it made a big impact on me and helped me through some tough years. I never forgot it.

But, then the kids came along and it is really hard not to compare to other kids their age. With Shea, that was really painful so, understandably I stopped comparing typically developing kids.

But when I read a really good blog post about another kid with Apraxia the other day, I slipped right into comparing my speech delay kid with hers.

I know, I should know better by now.

One side of me celebrated with the mother for the great strides that her son was making. He was only 3 and he was doing great; sentences, content, vocabulary. No doubt Speech Therapy 3 days a week was key. But, how could they afford that?

See? Don't compare. It will always make you either feel like shit or smug. And, neither is a very good way to feel.

So, I guess, honestly, it made me feel like a loser and afraid for Shea all over again. That I am not advocating hard enough. That I am not doing everything that I can possibly do. That I should be somehow making the state pay for more than they already are. It makes me feel like I am lazy and don't sit down and focus on drills and modeling as much as I should.

That I just treat him like a "normal" kid too much. Is that possible? Is that terrible? Sometimes I don't even know anymore.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pencil? What's a pencil?

Final inspection...signed off!

The nicest King County building inspector gal that Jake has ever met came out today and gave us the mighty blessing!

Oh sure, we have to finish the back deck and have her come out to see that when completed but basically we are ok to move in. Hurray!!!!!!!!!!!!

She was very decent and knowledgeable and it really topped off the whole arduous process with a positive note.

I really haven't talked much about this addition. Probably because it has been such a daily process for so long but it looks like it is now coming close to the end. Those of you who know me well, have been living and breathing this blasted project forever. So, thanks for hanging in there with me!

So, it is time for some picts:

First, let me say, Jake did all the finish work in the addition except paint, flooring and tile. Finish work is his real forte. His perfectionist tenancies really pay off on these sorts of projects. He was responsible for picking all the colors and I think they really turned out nice. I was very involved early on with design process and layout so I do feel like it has been a collaboration although Jake did all the work.

This is the long awaited master bedroom. Don't mind that drop cloth on the floor. Behind the blue wall, which is really a head board wall, is two walk in closets. One for each of us. Yah! Jake doesn't have to look at my piles anymore, or visa versa! Notice the sweet little gas fireplace in the corner. Cozy and simply flip a switch!

Here is the master bathroom which is a pretty big deal for us. After living in a 2 bedroom house with one bathroom for 8 years as a family of 4, we have been feeling a little bathroom starved. This one is all our very own, no sharing, unless we really like you.

This is the trick shower in the master. We are big shower people in our family. The kids are the only ones that bath and now that Molly is getting to be a big girl, Shea may be the lone bather.

I pushed for those pebble mosaic tiles. They come in a 12 inch square sheet with mesh backing. I am just tickled the way it turned out. The shower pan is also the pebble mosaic and it feels like a little foot massage as you stand on it.

Hat tip goes to our excellent tile guy, Sergi. He really did a nice job.

We did two shower heads, one on each wall for added grooviness. And, I can safely say that this is the most excellent shower I have ever been lucky enough to own.

So, all is well. I am beginning to fill the closets, quickly. And, we plan to tackle moving our bed down tomorrow. We have one of those Sleep Number beds and it comes apart in 82 pieces or there abouts so I want to start early enough that we can get it up and running by bed time.

Molly will move across the hall into our old room tomorrow as well. The kids will finally get their own rooms. Kisses and accolades to my great kids for hanging in there too. They have been such good sports about sharing a very small space all this time.

So, it is a busy weekend ahead but exciting, like a new chapter.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Math



Am I smarter than a 5th grader? No, absolutely not.

I help out with home work when she asks but sometimes, like last night, I couldn't come up with an answer to save my life.

But, we love us some Tom Lehrer!

Service dog changes life for autistic boy

This is a wonderful story from my home town paper.

A lovely family and the mom is my accountant. Last summer, they came to the community for help with the cost of getting the dog, $13,500 was raised.

Now the dog has arrived! Very sweet story.

From the Vashon Beachcomber:

In the classroom Monday morning, James and Comet already seemed like a team. After the dog’s introduction to the class, James sat at his desk, with Comet lying on the floor by his feet. The dog looked up at Mark and Raven, who held back in the shadows, but mostly he just settled in, apparently clear that this was his new assignment.

James, meanwhile, with his teacher’s help, began to write.

“I brought Comet,” he wrote. “I love Comet.”

He drew a picture — a simple rendition of a dog — and then wrote “DOG” in big, blocky letters next to it.

“Are you happy today?” Wilson asked him.

“Yes. Dog,” he answered.

“Me, too,” Wilson said, smiling broadly. “Me, too.”

How sick is he?

Shea is sick; a fever and a cough. And, this brings up one of my worst fears; how can you tell how sick your kid is if they don't really talk?

This is a tough one, always has been. Usually your kid will say, "Mommy, my ear hurts." Then you take them to the doctor to see if there is an ear infection. Etc.

But, if your kid doesn't really discuss how he feels, I feel like I am always trying to read between the lines of a pantomime.

Oh, he is sick. That I know. Temp over 100 and a wet, rattly cough. So, we are doing what we can; home from school all week, doses of Tylenol, lots of juice, blankies and pillows and piles of videos.

But, there is this gnawing fear that I am not doing something I should. That he can't tell me what hurts, doesn't even really know how to tell me.

I suppose I make these deals with myself, "If he isn't better by X day then I will take him to the clinic." That usually calms me down enough to just let him get better while not being consumed by too much mommy guilt.

Sad and scary.

Wonka

We are getting ready for the big show! The first performance of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is Friday afternoon and all the kids are on pins and needles.

Maybe I should back up. There was grant money available for our elementary school and the music teacher decided to put on a Broadway Jr. musical. These plays take popular works and trim them down for young performers.

3rd, 4th & 5th graders were invited to audition. Over 100 kids showed up!

Molly had her heart set on Veruca Salt, the super bratty rich kid. Molly really loved Veruca's song, took it very seriously, practiced it until she had it down pat and sung her little heart out at the audition.

She didn't get that part but got Violet Beauregaurde, the gum chewing brat that turns into a blueberry. Molly was still thrilled and has worked really hard on learning all her lines. If you remember in the movies, Violet does not have a song but they have created one in the Broadway Jr. script. Molly is a little luke warm on the tune. In fact, it doesn't really do anything for her but she is hanging in there anyway.

Most of her friends are in the play too, whether speaking parts or Oompa-Loompas. Comments from friends are: "Molly, you have to be brattier, you are still too nice." "More obnoxious gum chewing, please!"

So the maiden voyage happens Friday afternoon at the VCCC (Vashon Community Care Center) where the kids will put on the whole show for the seniors. I would think that would be a pretty appreciative audience.

Next week is the tough crowd, all their peers back at school. In fact, I heard one story of a boy quitting his part recently because of teasing from other boys.

Molly told me a story about a boy hassling her in math class about the play. She said, "If you think it's dumb then don't come to see it." Yes, it is as simple as that.

So, no, I am no hollywood mother and I can't wait for it to be safely behind us. But, it has been interesting to watch from a far. All these kids really working hard and mastering something pretty complicated and making it work.

Hats off to the music teacher who took on such a massive endeavor and the parent helpers who are making it work.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obama backs merit pay, charter schools

Personally, I agree but will this ruffle some feathers? Probably.

Even if it causes a flap, thank god we are having this conversation. And, from the big cheese himself. The time is long over due.

So, I am with you, big O; now let's hear some details.

What do you think?

From the AP:

President Barack Obama called for tying teachers' pay to students' performance and expanding innovative charter schools Tuesday, embracing ideas that have provoked hostility from members of teachers unions. He also suggested longer school days — and years — to help America's kids compete in the world.

In his first big speech on education, Obama said the United States must drastically improve student achievement to regain lost international standing.

"The future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens," he said. "We have everything we need to be that nation ... and yet, despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short and other nations outpace us."

His solutions include teacher pay and charter school proposals that have met resistance among members of teachers unions, which constitute an important segment of the Democratic Party.

Obama acknowledged that conflict, saying, "Too many supporters of my party have resisted the idea of rewarding excellence in teaching with extra pay, even though we know it can make a difference in the classroom."

Despite their history on the issues, union leaders publicly welcomed Obama's words, saying it seems clear he wants to include them in his decisions in a way President George W. Bush did not.

"We finally have an education president," said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers. "We really embrace the fact that he's talked about both shared responsibility and making sure there is a voice for teachers, something that was totally lacking in the last eight years."

My tween

Has the term "tween" been around long enough to solidify in our lexicon? If not, I'll explain.

Wiki says:

"Tween" or Preadolescence: the stage between middle childhood and adolescence in human development, generally in the age range of 10 to 12 years of age.

Yep, this is what I am talking about. I see it everyday. Wide swings between; moodiness, the grumps, the sillys and back again. Moods change quickly and little bits of information fluff out during transitions.

Bullys, mean girls stuff, what a boy said to her on the bus, getting in trouble in class. She tends to sit on information, digesting it but usually shares eventually. I can only pray that continues.

She says she has a guilty conscious. She means that when she does something "wrong" then she feels guilty. Right now, it's stuff like saying "hell" at school. "I wish I didn't have such a guily conscious." she pouts.

"Your conscious is the traffic sign inside yourself that tells you when not to do stuff. I am glad you have a good solid conscious. I hope it will keep you safe." I say.

"What if I have already done something that I feel bad about?"

"Then you hopefully won't do it again."

These days, it is not unusual for Molly to initially be grumpy or moody about pretty much everything; activities, functions, etc. Even if she wanted to do them in the first place but grumpy about it when the time comes.

I try not to pay too much attention. My new barometer is: will she be jollied out of the grumps by the end. And, usually that is the case. She grumps into voice lesson and boings out. She grumps about tennis camp but then loves it.

Basically, she is a very up, enthusiastic person. So, getting to know this grumpy, moody person is like....well...honestly...looking back at myself when I was that age. A scary thought indeed.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I bought it on E-Bay



Sorry folks!

But, my kid, the one that talks all the time vs. the one that doesn't talk all the time, has been singing this song non-stop for 3 days straight.

I may be able to blame my blogger's block on this song. Maybe not.

Who knew Weird Al had such a splendid voice? Really hits it out of the park with this one.

Enjoy!

Tummy sleeper

Shea sleeps on his tummy, always has. I remember as a newborn, suffering from the hormone cocktail running through my bloodstream, I tried hard to get him to sleep on his back. They always scare the heck out of you with all those stories about SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and the real or mythical link to tummy sleeping. Fresh motherhood is not a rational time. Fear runs rampant and worry is at the forefront, right next to exhaustion.

Shea and I set up in our nice big bed and pretty much kicked Jake down to the pull out couch. This lasted for about 6 months. The theory being; one of us should get some sleep and be coherent to take care of Molly.

We got into a pretty good grove. Shea just slept with me and I would just roll over and nurse, change him and try to get back to sleep. Everything I needed was within arms reach. I remember it as a very cozy time. But, I did spend a lot of time listening to him breath while I was trying to get back to sleep.

If Shea slept on his back, he would spit up, sort of choke and make these gagging noises. It was terrifying. I tried shifting him to his side which would help but he would roll back to his back and gag again. I had those little "baby shims" or "wedges" that would prop him on his side. Sometimes it helped but they would get dislodged or misplaced and then I would awaken to Shea choking again on his back.

Another unusually thing about Shea when he was a baby; he would spit up through his nose! I have never, ever heard of this before and it raised some serious eyebrows at his appointments. Later when we were trying to troubleshoot his speech delay, they were concerned about his pallet because of this and sent us to the Craniofacial Department at Seattle Children's Hospital. This is where they do all those amazing cleft pallet surgeries. But, for Shea it wasn't a cleft pallet and it just ended up being a shrug-shrug interesting anecdote about his infancy.

Finally, after quite a bit of time, I would just put him to sleep on his tummy and he would breath much better. And, we all slept better. Of course, I felt guilty and remember being remorseful when asked by the doctor at one of his check ups.

To this day, he sleeps on his tummy. When I go in to wake him in the morning, he will be on tummy often with his tush in the air. And, I do have to say he sleeps like a brick. Once he is out, he is out. Cozy.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Speech Therapy update

It was one of those early Spring days that gets your blood and all the little buds on the trees all worked up. Getting up to bright blue skys, brilliant sun, not too cold and warming up by the minute is a rarity in the Northwest at this time of year. And, a day like this is treasured like loot.

By the time, Shea and I were on our normal Friday Speech Therapy run to Seattle to see Bubble lady, we had shed our coats and were just soaking up the rays on the ferry boat.

A nice day for a nice report. Bubble says that she is impressed at the extent of Shea's language and sentence structure. Huh?

For example, he said to her while holding up a beloved Lego contraption, "I brought this for home." She didn't seem concerned that he mixed up "for" and "from" but focused on "brought"; a complicated word that is an embedded idea. This is actually a pretty good example of the sort of things that Shea is saying these days. A big whoop for many a kid but a pretty grand leap for Shea.

Bubble said that she is less worried about his articulation which is something I always seem to fret about because it is hard for other people to understand him. But, she said she was impressed with his word choices and the cognitive sequencing needed to "build" a sentence. Huh?

I nod happily because she seems so please but I rarely fully understand what she is saying. Even after all this time. But I absorb what I can and try to parrot it back to Dad and Gramma and friends and the blog. I hope I didn't botch it up totally with all that repeating and reemphasizing.

She asked about plans for Kindergarten and seemed to think Shea was ready. I expect academically he may be but social he isn't there. For example the potty training. I just don't feel good about sending him into a mainstream Kindergarten class when he is no where near being potty trained. It just seems like playing with fire.

I did mention my concern about his "low tone" is his mouth and lower face. Maybe his bladder has "low tone"? She suggested we talk with the normal doctor and if they can check that off first, she has referrals for psychological help for Potty Training. Ok. We can do that.

So, a beautiful sunny day with some positive news and an action item. I'll take it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Seattle special-ed teachers suspended for refusal to give test

Wow, just wow! How ridiculous is that? Sheesh...

From the Seattle Times:

The Seattle School District suspends two special-education teachers at Green Lake Elementary for 10 days without pay for refusing to give their students the WAAS (the WASL alternative for special-needs students). The teachers say they're honoring parent wishes and that the test is inappropriate for their students, who have severe physical and cognitive disabilities.

"With any students, but particularly those with special needs, and especially in instances when we have a federal and a state mandate to follow, documentation is essential," Seattle Schools spokeswoman Patti Spencer said.

Stahl and Griffith are teaching partners at Green Lake, with a class of 11 special-education students. Many are far below their various classifications as kindergarten through fifth-grade level. Some are prone to seizures or have respiratory issues.

McKean's son Jackson, 10, has hydrocephalus and uses a wheelchair. In four-plus years at Green Lake, he has learned to feed himself, hang up his jacket and not to scream when he hears loud noises. "My kid is basically the equivalent of a toddler," McKean said. "You wouldn't ask a toddler these questions when they can't do it. ... You wouldn't give a kid a test that is years beyond what they can do."

According to Nate Olson of the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the WAAS can be tailored to students' individual needs, but parents and teachers dispute that. Because the test is grade-level-based, they say, it's inappropriate for students with severe cognitive disabilities.

"It's really not a one-size-fits-all for kids," Stahl said. "It doesn't mean we don't have high expectations; we do. They're just not there yet."

She and Griffith first raised concerns about the test last fall, Stahl said, after parents told them they didn't want their children taking the exam. The two teachers wrote the district asking to work together to create a more appropriate test for their children, but received no response, she said.

Many of the children had taken the test the previous year, Stahl noted, and all received zeros. "They're automatically being set up for failure," she said.

When McKean's son was given the exam last year, she said, he just sat there. "He doesn't read or write," McKean said. "... He's just learning how to draw straight lines. But doing a two-plus-two math problem, he doesn't really understand."

When Principal Cheryl Grinager directed the teachers to complete the required exam preparation, they refused — again, Stahl said, in deference to parental wishes.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Self medication

Since I am usually blogging to the special parent community, medications may be very close to home. I give a sympathetic nod to those of you working through which and what medications are going to help in your particular situation. My thoughts are with you, Busy Intersection. XOX

Many medications come in little bottles; dazzlingly colorful, mind bogglingly expensive with tongue twister names that your insurance company will probably not cover.

But, some medications can be self prescribed and come in the form of a fruity, slightly tart Chardonnay made right here in Eastern Washington. Or my personal preference, beer.

I am a beer gal; always have been. I am lucky enough to have grown up (post age 21) in a state with one of the first micro brews, Red Hook Brewery. Ahh.... Those were the days. Now, of course, Red Hook is owned by Anheuser Busch. And, that, my friends, may say it all. Needless to say, I don't drink that anymore.

Right now, my personally favorite is Deschutes Brewery, Mirror Pond Pale Ale brewed and bottled in O-so-beautiful Bend, OR.

"Mirror Pond is just a short walk from the Deschutes Brewery & Public House in downtown Bend and reflects the Three Sisters Mountains. This scenic spot alongside the Deschutes River is the locals’ choice for summer festivals and concerts.

The quintessential American pale ale, Mirror Pond elegantly blends the sweetness of malted barley with the bite of hops (which add bitterness and aroma). It's refreshing, loaded with strong hop flavors, and perfectly balanced."


I prefer it on draft but rarely get the chance these days as we have small children and that tends to deter going out much. But, I can certainly live with bottled beer especially if the alternative is no beer at all.

This is where I say, please be responsible about self medicating. Alcohol is highly addictive and the last thing we need, as special parents or any parents at all, is to loose control. Do not drive when imbibing, etc. etc. So, please take care. My personal code is: don't drink until 5:00 PM and then don't go drive afterward. Be safe, folks.

Also, when in doubt, go for quality vs. quantity.

So, if a glass of wine or a couple of brews takes the edge off the hard, hard work you do then so be it! You deserve it.

Cheers!

My son is a cat

Shea always did plenty of verbalizing as a baby which made us all the more confused when the babbling and the words would not come. At a very young age, he developed a pretty impressive variety of squeaks, coos and grunts. He did point, which I guess is a big deal, and was certainly able to get his needs understood through his own means.

When he is tired or in a particularly snuggy mood he makes this sound like a meow or a tuneless keening. Later when he could talk a little more, I asked him, "What are you saying, Shea?" And, he said, "Kitty" I asked him who was a kitty and he pointed to himself.

Now, that he has more control of his mouth and has a wider vocabulary, he actually says that he is a kitty. He tells me that I am the mom kitty and then he lovingly butts his head into me, meowing.

Granted, this is a lovey sound, a happy, cozy cat sound. I remember trying to describe this unusual behavior to the psychologist as the UW CHDD. She was a particularly officious person with a very blank, professional demeanor throughout the exam and testing. I said that he has this specific vocalization for when he is hugging, tired or lovey that sounded like a cat's meow. In fact, he calls himself a cat.

Something cracked in her face and she gave me a genuine, "Aw. How sweet". I was only offering the story as a sample of his relationships and communication skills. But, I remember it vividly and really it was one of the more truly human moments of the experience.

Not only does he talk like a cat, he rubs his head on you like a cat. Now, I know that this has something to do with his Sensory Integration issues but, never the less, he rubs his head or head butts you like a happy cat that wants a pat. If encouraged, he will also crawl around on the floor and "pretend" to be a cat.

It is true that we already have 3 cats whose job is supposed to keep the rodent population at bay. Shea does have a special relationship with them; all 3 and will sit and discuss cat type things with them for as long as they will allow. But, Shea is our favorite cat who gets special favor and treatment as a key part of the family.

Victory gardens

I heard on the radio yesterday that seed sales are sky rocketing. People, normal people, are scratching in the dirt and planting vegetables. Organic produce is expensive, main stream produce is tasteless and nowhere near "fresh". People are making the obvious deduction and saying, "Hey, I am going to try growing some myself."

I applaud this, even if it is a bad economy that pushes them there.

I am not a big gardener although I sure like it when I do it. Something happens when kids come along. Maybe it is the lack of uninterrupted time. So, I haven't really pulled my garden together since Shea came along.

But, I want to. Maybe this year can be different. I usually only plant the stuff I have had previous success with; lettuces, spinach, mustard greens, peas, beans. Yes, I have done tomatoes with varying success. My laziness has pushed me to buy tomatoes at the farmers market because I just can't stand the disappointment.

But, I love to plant flower seeds, easy ones. Nasturtiums, bachelor buttons, allysum: pretty, easy stuff the kids can help with.

When I walk out through my garden patch all I see is the weeds. It seems insurmountable. How am I going to clear a spot big enough for these lettuces? It's hard to start. But, when I grab a garden fork and some gloves and start turning, it goes amazing quick. It is just the starting. In a short time, maybe 1/2 an hour, I have a 4 x 6 plot ready for some lettuces. And, I am all deliciously warm and pink from the exertion. Be careful of your back!

All lettuces and spinaches are cool weather crops and will bolt (go to seed) when it gets to hot. So, plant early. Also I have found doing 2 - 3 successive plantings about 1 week apart is a good way to maximize the harvest.

So, anyway, enough talking about it. I hope to pull this off today. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mairi's Wedding

video

Molly has pretty much polished this one or close to it. And, it only cost me 3 Girl Scout cookies this time; thin mint, a classic.

It got me thinking about who was Mairi? And, how lucky she was to have such a cool song named for her wedding. She must've been something else.

Wiki says:

"Mairi's Wedding (also known as Marie's Wedding, the Lewis Bridal Song, or Mairi Bhan) is a Scottish folk song originally written in Gaelic by Johnny Bannerman for Mary McNiven. Written using a traditional Scottish tune, it was first played for McNiven in 1935 at the Old Highlanders Institute in Glasgow's Elmbank Street. Hugh S. Roberton translated the Gaelic version into English in 1936.

It is also a Scottish country dance, 40 bar, reel time."

Anyway, whatever keeps my girl opening up the old violin case to practice as we move toward the 5 year anniversary.

Keep it up, babe!

Recycling or why I love thrift stores

I have had a long and loyal relationship with thrift stores over the past, say, 44 years.

One of my early memories is being with my mom while she shopped at the "Nearly New" shop in Tacoma, WA. I had to be 4 or 5. I remember they had a box full of toys to keep the kids busy while mom did some shopping. This was way before consignment shops were hip. This was the late 60's and I still remember an absolutely smashing pink Easter dress she got me there one time. I can still see it in my mind with it's go-go style and curiously crazy cuffs.

In high school, about 1980, I decided that I liked that "vintage" look. Which meant anything older than 1960 and worn with black levis. And, of course, I had several different pairs of Converse high tops that I would color coordinate with all my vintage finds. Yep, all thrift store shopping. And, even before "Vintage Thrift Store" became the groovy scene.

There I was again riding the wave just a little before the rest of the pack.

Now? Thrift shops? All the time. For pretty much everything except bras, panties and socks. And, now it's not only economical but it's recycling. When else can you make a political statement while shopping?

Again, we are mighty lucky here on Vashon to have Granny's Attic, a long standing thrift store and the social heart of the island. It is a non-profit who donates all funds to the local health clinic to the impressive tune of over $300,000 per year. Mainly run by granny volunteers and grampa fix it guys, they also offer steady employment to a dozen or more people. Only open 3 days a week; Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, you will eventually see just about everybody there.

I would have to imagine that every household has a "Granny's pile" of things grown out of, unused and/or unneeded. Each of us simply need to bring the bag to Granny's where it will be politely processed and priced and put out for sale. Usually when I drop off a bag, I leave with another bag of treasures too good to pass up.

Everyone in my family gets outfitted handsomely from Granny's. And, if the kids ruin a shirt in a paint class or totally destroy a pair of pants while playing, I don't feel like I need to holler when they only cost a couple of bucks. The same goes for kids furniture and toys. We try not to sweat the small stuff and Granny's helps. Just have to keep the "stuff" rotating through. One person's Granny pile is another person's Granny's treasure. A symbiotic balance.

My husband has been known, at times, to have amazing Granny's karma. What the heck? Well, sort of goose bump provoking stuff like the time we needed vacuum cleaner bags and he went up to Granny's and found a whole bag of the exact kind we needed for $1. Just freaky. He is always coming up with something.

I have spent most of my adult life living pretty frugally because I just never made lots of money. Frankly, after all this time, it is just second nature. I would expect as the the economic downturn continues it will open up this avenue for many, many others. And, with Freecycles popping up all over the world many others jump on the thrifty bandwagon.

So, whether you are an old hand like me or new to this particular treasure hunt: Welcome aboard, thifty thrifters! It's not just second hand anymore, it's recycling!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Finally. Barbie's a real woman!

Education chief favors longer school year

Personally, I think this is a great idea. The only reason why American children have summers off is because our history as an agrarian nation. That is not the case anymore. I like the model of 3 months on and 3 weeks off. This is common all over the world.

The school year covers the whole year and there a 4 real good breaks for travel, rest, play and deeper focus.

I love this idea. What do you folks thing?

From CNN:

Those lazy days of summer may become a thing of the past if the new secretary of education has his way.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan suggests giving incentives to teachers whose students perform well.

Arne Duncan, the Cabinet secretary charged with overhauling America's educational system, is studying programs that keep kids in school longer to boost their academic achievements.

"When I go out and talk about that, that doesn't always make me popular with students. They like the long summers," Duncan said in an interview Wednesday with CNN conducted in the Education Department's library.

But Duncan said American students are "at a competitive disadvantage" because the United States has shorter school years than other countries such as India and China.

"It doesn't matter how poor, how tough the family background, socioeconomic challenges," Duncan said. "Where students have longer days, longer weeks, longer years -- that's making a difference."

Working at home with kids

I have been doing this for quite a while with varying degrees of success. Basically, depending on what you do, it can be a very good thing.

I always felt that I didn't wait so long to have kids so that I could let someone else raise them. But, then again, I never really made the kind of money that justified full time day care.

I was lucky. I was able to cobble together a livelihood by working in the family business and developing a side business along the way. Now it is a way of life.

How productive am I as a work at home mom? I admit that I can get more done in 30 minutes than when I spent 1/2 a day in an office trotting the corporate track. Something about that uninterrupted time. Boy, do you miss it when you are at home with the kids therefore you utilize it, appreciate it.

So, yes, I feel productive but not as organized as I would like to be. Certainly not as professional as I would want to be. I don't wear business clothes anymore. I dress like a mom which is one or two steps above pajamas. My professional image has suffered. What with kids screaming in the background as you're talking services with a new client! But, people are forgiving these days. They understand. They are usually pretty cool. If my crazy, mom-full life bugs them, I am sure they just go somewhere else. This is a small enough market, usually they will be back.

How about the mothering? How is that effected by working at home? This is where the ever present mommy guilt comes in. I have spent a lot of time trying to distract my kids so that I could get some work done. I always feel bad about that. I have to drop whatever I am doing to answer a client's call or deal with putting out a little fire. The kids are second in line in those situations. I try to arrange meeting around the kids but clients are clients. I spend lots of time away when they would rather have me here. I am only so "in control" of the schedule.

I have spent many hours itching to take care of the over flowing in box knowing I can't really do it justice until they are gone to school, camp, preschool, etc. I have had to drag them with me to meetings. By the way, this never, ever really works. No matter how wonderful the kids are. It is just against the grain. Kids are not naturally patient and clients don't naturally hurry. A lose-lose scenario.

I am thankful that I have had this opportunity. I realize what a gift it is. Many kids don't get to see their parents until around dinner time. That is their normal. I am here to make sure they eat breakfast. I have a little time to volunteer in their classes. I am here after school. But, I guess I will need to wait until they are grown to hear what they really thought about it.

It is what it is. I wonder what they will say.
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