Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ben's Big TV Debut

This has to be a super-fast blog entry because as we speak Grandma is bringing Kid 1 & Kid 2 back from an overnight adventure!! A short break for this tired Momma...

This morning Todd, Ben & I had the pleasure of appearing, on behalf of Kennedy Krieger, on Good Morning Maryland on ABC2 news here in Baltimore.  Check us out!!

Anchors Charlie Crowson and Megan Pringle were warm and gracious and it was very exciting to sit in those new gold chairs on set!! I was very nervous, but once Todd and I started talking we really couldn't stop! We spoke not only of the kids and Kennedy Krieger in general, but of ROAR--KKI's big fundraiser coming up on May 1st.  Sponsor us, join our team, or learn more at:

Ben had a hard time sitting still--and quietly--but all of the studio staff and news anchors took it all in stride and made us feel very comfortable and welcomed.  We were even invited back by Meteorologist Justin Berk so that Addie & Cassie can tour the weather center! Another exciting thing I learned is that Justin's wife Debbie is launching a store for both parents and educators very soon!! The Just Learning Store will be a great resource for parents, educators, special educators, and anyone who works with kids of all ages and abilities.  Please take a moment and check out their site  After you do that make note of their GRAND OPENING in York, PA on June 25th and plan on attending for fun, family friendly activities, including an interactive weather lesson! (Addie is gonna LOVE that!!) After you do that--look them up on Facebook and "like" their page for a shot at getting a 10% shopping discount once the store opens!

 And after the taping Ben and I went for his 2 year old portrait--it was adorable!! What a fun day for us!! Stay tuned for our next adventure~

Friday, April 8, 2011

I am Guilty

Does the Mommy guilt EVER end?? No--please don't tell me.  I suspect the answer is a big fat no. 

Here is what I feel guilty about now.  (which is to say at this moment--not in general) Ben is playing with an electric baby monitor.  I am sitting on the sofa, comfy in my jammies on a wet and rainy Friday.  Shouldn't I be doing something with him?  (to further add to the delinquency of my child the TV, of course, is on) Shouldn't I be implementing one of the many, many play therapies and strategies I've been trained to do? Maybe I should start by unplugging the baby monitor to cut down on electric shock risk?

In general my guilt lies all over the place.

Financially based guilt: We aren't putting nearly enough away for college--what will happen?? We owe a bloody ton of money to the IRS this year--what if we can't do fun things for a few months because of that? OMG what if we can't buy stuff for our kids??? When we go to McDonald's or ChickFilA instead of fixing food that we already have (and paid for) at home--are we teaching them bad financial AND unhealthful habits?

Laziness guilt: If you know me well you know that one of my favorite things to do is nothing.  Or napping.  I love naps.  Our weekends here in Paradise revolve around nap time.  Ben naps, Hubby & I each get a sofa to nap on, and Addie & Cassie are banished to the basement playroom to watch a DVD and play quietly.  Between my love of doing nothing and my love of napping it's a fair assessment that my children (often) witness me sitting on my arse.  Am I teaching them to be lazy? Am I teaching them that just hanging around the house is the only thing to do? Wait, I'm getting sleepy.

Activities guilt: I don't push my kids to do activities, and frankly I get cranky with the ones we have in place.  Whether it's hubby's schedule, my own laziness (see above) or just what--I get cranky trying to get my kids ready for their activities--and that is the most unpleasant thing.  Addie's only been in art one week so far and I'm already dreading tomorrow (Saturday) morning.  Having to get up and get two kids ready (Cassie goes to ballet--which requires a particular set of tights/leotard and a hard-to-do bun in her hair) on a Saturday makes me absolutely lose my mind.  Where is the "Saturday" in this??? I digress.  But--I feel guilty about it. All of it. 

Oh--and speaking of guilt--here is a big one.  I am really guilty because I can't wait for Cassie to go to FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN.  I cannot wait to see her cute little pig tales get on that bus with Addie and drive away to school.  Oh wait...I feel guilty now because I just wished her last months of "little kid-dom" away.  ACK!!! Seriously I know in my heart that she is 100% ready for kindergarten--but I compare myself to my good friends who are mourning the entry into big kid-dom...and BAM!! The guilt is back. 

So, what's a mom to do??

I do know that I have happy kids--I don't feel guilty about that, I am proud of that!! I also know that my kids feel loved and protected...definitely not guilty about that! I do know that my kids have good hearts and they are learning to be empathetic, caring people.  Wait--that's a good guilt there! My kids get to see their parents hug and kiss each day--this is one I am really big on--and I am proud of it--so again--no guilt!!

Well, maybe a little guilt ain't so bad.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I am cautiously optimistic...

...and I am afraid to actually say the words "out loud" (or in digital ink...) but I think Addie may have turned a corner with her phobia of dogs!!!

Many of you know what a struggle this has been for us--for Addie in particular.  Walks to the bus stop have been horrendous, going to Kennedy Krieger's annual ROAR event (Ride On for Autism Research) last year nearly sent Addie running for the woods, literally. (We neglected to plan for the fact that, as an outdoor event, people would inevitably bring their favorite four-footed companions)  We have avoided friends' homes because a visit caused too much stress, fatigue, and hurt feelings.  Our normal way of life became always being on guard for Fido. 

Then, a few weeks ago, came an invitation from one of Addie's best friends.  It was for a sleepover.  Not only was this to be the first sleepover at a non-family member's house--it was to be at a house with not one, but two dogs!! The stress kicked in immediately...on my end...before I even mentioned it to Addie.  Before Addie even knew about the sleepover I enlisted the help of her guidance counselor at school (yay for Mrs. B!!) and of course Todd and I talked about it extensively.  We also talked to the friend's mom and it was agreed that Cassie could come along for the sleepover.  (Not only would this help Addie in the moral support department--but Cassie would be over the moon to be included with the big girls!!) When we told Addie about the sleepover she was very, very excited--but understandably nervous.  We told her that Cassie would go along to help her out, and we told her Mrs. B was going to help her talk about her feelings a bit too.  We (and our "team") laid a huge amount of groundwork--but only time would tell. 

The big day arrived--we went to buy a special, brand new sleeping bag for good measure--and Hubby and I took the girls to the sleepover.  After some initial nerves, and a final hug, Hubby and I left.  I was a nervous wreck as we drove downtown to meet some friends for dinner.  A few minutes after we were seated I received a text messaged picture of Addie playing happily at the party.  Whew....this evening just may work out after all!! Hubby has pointed out repeatedly that he knew all along that things would go well--but even at that first bit of good news I was still a little skeptical.  A few more texts later and it pretty clear that things were going well!! (a huge shout-out to my friend, Laurie, for being a great sleepover Mom--and for going above and beyond the call of duty for helping Addie through the rough spots!)

I kept my phone and my iPod touch next to my head as I went to bed that night--and woke to check to make sure both were working every few hours--but as I woke up the next morning it was with a HUGE sense of relief--I missed no phonecalls, texts, emails, NOTHING!!! The girls, in particular Addie, had made it through the night.  When I picked up the girls Laurie showed me a picture on her cellphone of Addie, Cassie and the dogs.  Apparently Addie was learning to "train" the dogs--it helped that the pooches are both very good with people, especially kids!

To go back to why I'm cautiously optimistic....we have had progress before--back in December Addie slept at my sister-in-law's house (which is shared by a german shepherd mix!).  But we have always had backslides.  This time--my fingers are crossed. 

Today as we were walking home from the bus stop (yes--walking, not riding in the car!) Cassie and Ben ran up to the house before Addie and me.  Addie noticed that a few neighbors' dogs were out and she got scared and grabbed my arm.  I held her hand tightly and she calmed down.  As we made it to our front yard Addie looked at me and said, "I did it Mommy--I did it!"  Yeah, kiddo--you did. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Little Guy is Rockin' It!

I have neglected to update the blog on Ben's progress at Early Achievements.  We are well into the third month and we have a solid routine.  I'm thrilled to tell the world that my son is totally rockin' it!!! Hubby and I, particularly over the last few weeks, have simply been amazed at the explosion of language we are hearing.  Ben's teachers commented about it too--also telling me that his articulation has gone from somewhat unclear (I can usually understand him) to crystal clear.  One of my favorite things from today? One of Ben's amazing teachers told me that he said a perfectly clear, "Buh-Bye Daniel."  (Daniel is one of Ben's little buddies :-) )

Our morning routine has taken this Momma by surprise--both that we CAN do it...and that we're doing it rather well.  We've managed to only have one major "oops" day where Ben was late to school and I had to miss an appointment--but otherwise things are running smoothly.  Addie is LOVING going to before-care at school.  It's all I can do to sneak a kiss goodbye when I drop her off! *sniff,sniff*  Hubby normally takes Cassie to school and once I get Addie to school it's off to Early Achievements for Ben.  I am finding a lot of comfort in the new friendships that are forming--it's a great group of parents we have!! I am also enjoying the time to myself...I have had some Panera mornings, some Target mornings, some Trader Joe's mornings, some gym mornings.  Ahhh, bliss!! It's funny how an hour or two by myself can recharge me for the rest of the day. 

Tomorrow is Friday--and despite how wonderful Early Achievements is--and I am happy to say the only thing on the calendar is a playdate with my friend Amy and her darling little guy, Evan.  Fridays are happy days. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

Ben is all set to start Early Achievements on Wednesday of this week. 

Ben and I went to the orientation last week.  I was unprepared for the flood of emotion as I stepped back into that classroom.  It was there that we watched Addie come to life, and there that I made many good friends, and there that I saw my daughter's true personality emerge. 

In addition to the flood of emotions from five years ago I am battling my brain with the "should we's"??  At this point in time, after Ben's intense, but very fun, time in Little Learners, he is doing so well.  He has many words, he is starting to combine words, he can label all the things we do and see, and he can fully get his needs met.  While we have committed to the Early Achievements program, and I know how beneficial it is, I'm wondering if it really is the best thing for Ben.  When I have these thoughts I usually feel selfish because Ben is going to have a wonderful time no matter's me that I worry about.  (see--SELFISH!!) Addie will have to go to before-care, Cassie will have to go to before care and after care, and I'll be doing a LOT of driving back and forth to all things. 

On the other hand, this is a huge opportunity for Ben--and for me.  Ben will continue to great early intervention and learn new and exciting things everyday.  I will be able to continue to shout from the rooftop just how wonderful we think Kennedy Krieger is, and I'll be meeting new and wonderful people whom I hope to call friends. 

In the meantime we'll be updating Ben's IFSP (the document that lays out the services that Ben receives through our local Infants and Toddlers organization) to get a speech consult, continue physical therapy, OT consult, and anything else that we may have questions about.  I would much rather have it all checked out now than find out we have missed a crucial "window" opening somewhere along the way. 

In a related note--if you as a reader have a child (or know someone who does) who is not meeting developmental milestones--please do not hesitate in contacting your local Birth to Three/Infant & Toddler program.  I am happy to answer questions as well, though I am by no means an expert! You'll find my contact info on my profile here.  Here are a few other helpful links.   (key in Early Achievements at the search input)   The Vines Early Intervention Services in Towson, MD

Thanks for reading, folks!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

B Meets Dr. Anna

I have been both dreading and looking forward to this day for the last month or so.  In November, while doing a walk-a-thon with A at school, I got a phone call that B could be seen at CARD, the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute.  We made the request for the appointment at the urging of Dr. Rebecca Landa, head of the Center, and whom we are quite certain walks on water.  Despite many very positive things and tremendous progress throughout the Little Learners Program, the post-testing was still pointing to B having several 'autism red flags and/or behaviors, so--while we totally know what to expect...we found we sort of didn't know what to expect! Hubby hasn't been nearly so worked up over this as I have been.  Whether it's because he's clear headed and optimistic in nearly all circumstances or whether we truly have nothing to worry about, who's to know?? (I prefer to think it's the latter, by the way) Regardless, today was the day and I was really dreading it. 

The very rational, intelligent (yes, there is one) part of me knows that a diagnosis of an Autism disorder is nothing more than an artificial label.  I know that the best thing we, as parents and advocates, can do is to treat symptoms and behaviors as they arise and not focus on a label, a diagnosis, a stigma.  I had totally gotten myself wrapped up in the labeling.  I was preparing myself for hearing that B has autism. 

The very good news--and to cut to the chase--is that after a very lengthy visit Dr. Anna, as she likes to be called, it was observed that Ben is doing quite well in all aspects of development: socially, physically, behaviorally.  Dr. Anna said that had she not heard our history or known anything about us (she heard both Hubby and I speak a few months back at the KKI Autism Conference) ASD wouldn't have come into light at all.  (I'm paraphrasing a bit).  I had so engulfed myself in the thoughts that we were going to walk out with a labeled child that the idea of walking out with a happy carefree B never did cross my mind. 

Now I'm not so naive as to think that things can't or won't change...and I realize that the exhaustive testing that the wonderful clinicians at REACH/KKI certainly points to some red flags for B, but I truly never thought we'd walk out of there with really amazing news.  I, while happy, still spent the rest of the day in a complete fog! 

Even with a very positive prognosis Dr. Anna (and we) still feels that Early Achievements is the best avenue to follow for B right now.  Before I was on the fence (should we/shouldn't we?) but now I'm sure.  We're going to do it--we're going to work past the struggles (signing A up for morning before school care so I can transport B to Early Achievements) and we're going to have a fantastic six months.  I know I'll have a tired little guy in the afternoons, and I'll miss spending my mornings with him, but I know he'll be in very good, very capable  hands.  And I will get what I've been yearning for....a few hours to myself nearly every day.  Even more importantly, though, we'll have the satisfaction of knowing that we are doing everything possible to get B a good outcome.  Maybe we're lucky...maybe we're just in the right place at the right time, but I prefer to think that by being proactive, assertive parents we're doing our kid a huge favor.  

That's it for now, friends...Happy New Year--may it be good for us all~

Almost the big 3-5

Here we are, at the beginning of a new year....and sometimes I still manage to forget that I'm not 28 anymore.  Somehow time keeps passing and I'm actually going to be the big 3-5.  For those of you keeping track--that's 5 years from 40.  5 years from 30 too....if you're a 'glass half full' kind of thinker.  In my head I am thinking of this as a 'big' birthday--but in reality it's just another number.  My inlaws will be out of town, my parents busy, we'll celebrate by Hubby ordering in Sushi and watching the Ravens, I'll play with my late Christmas/Early B-day gift the iPod Touch....   But why does 35 seem so, well, monumental?? It just seems so adult--so grown up.  Let me set the record straight...I do NOT feel like a grown up.  I know that I won't get carded at a liquor store...I know that no one is going to take me for a 25 year old...but 35?? There are 35 year old grandmothers out there, folks!! Ack...does this mean that, had things happened way out of order way back when, that I could be a (gulp) grandmother?? Wow.  How did this HAPPEN? When did I get this old??

At 28 I was on top of the world.  I was the young, cute SAHM & wife...I had a toddler, I kept a nice house, I went on playdates, I was happy.  Not that I am not happy now...I would dare to argue that I am in a near blissful least whilst my children are safely tucked into their beds asleep, mind you.  But sometimes if someone has the audacity to ask my age--my gut reaction is to blurt out "28."  Why IS this?? Because once I realize the stupidity of my own thinking I think not only am I NOT 28 anymore...I've lived a lifetime since then! In the last 7 years my life has changed more drastically than at any other time in my memory.  I've watched a beautiful baby girl get diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, I've seen her blossom and flourish beyond my wildest dreams and hopes, I've given birth to two more absolutely amazing creatures, and, despite being together for more than half of my life, I feel like Hubby and I have totally synched up and hit a really good stride.  Why is it, then, that I keep reverting to this silly number....shouldn't my number be "almost 35?"  **Technically I am not 35 until 6:38pm on January until that moment I will continue to be almost 35.  Just to be clear. 

I guess I still feel young.  28 was a darn good year for me--but I know that 35 has the potential to knock my socks off.  Check in with me in a few weeks....