Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Not-Very-Wordless Wednesday: The Joys of Mobile Uploads

(okay, a few words...just a couple of pics from my cell phone taken over the weekend - 1st is my little bongo girl at a friend's house...I don't know what's up with her in the 2nd, but she's started chewing on her finger all of a sudden in the last few days - weird, because she has all of her teeth, and she was never a thumb-sucker...I'm suspecting an ear infection, actually...the 3rd is Sammi with  DC United player, Jaime Moreno, with whom Steve watched Sunday's England v. Germany game - poor Sammi, she was tired and whiny and had just come out of the bath all bedraggled and mad because I had just washed her hair, when Steve called and asked me to come pick him up at the local watering hole)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Big(ger) Girl

I’m glad we had gotten Samantha a toddler bed a year and a half ago. I really am. I know people always say they prefer to skip the toddler bed and go right to the twin, but Sammi wasn’t very good at climbing a year and a half ago, and would never have been able to hoist herself up over mattress and box spring. Plus I was too scared of her falling when trying to get down. I know a twin bed isn’t all that big, but still, when you’re talking about the little princess that you wrap in cotton wool every day, it may as well be the giant mountain of mattresses accessible only by ladder in The Princess and the Pea. And we know Sammi couldn’t climb ladders then, either.

So the toddler bed was a wonderful introduction to life outside the crib. The freedom has been liberating for her, but she has never really taken advantage (in a negative way) of the opportunities it presents. She generally knows that bedtime is bedtime, naptime is naptime. Playtime is for when you’re awake, and supposed to be awake. Sure, I’ve done my share of sneaking up the stairs to surprise her, mid-stride, in the middle of her room trying to hightail it back to bed before I discovered her little adventures. I’ve caught her cross-legged on the floor engrossed in a pile of books in pitch dark. (Now she knows how to turn her light switch on, so that won’t be a problem for her anymore…)

There were two big drawbacks to the toddler bed, however. One, she still fell out of bed during the night. Because the base below the mattress was slats, we couldn’t install a side rail. The side rails built into the bed already were barely longer than her pillow. How those could do anything beyond keeping her pillow from falling on the floor, I have no idea. She didn’t usually “fall,” exactly, she more often kind of spilled out of bed, starting with one foot, then the other, then her whole body leaning against the side of the bed, then all the way onto the floor, still sound asleep. That couldn’t have been the most restful way to spend the night. I know it wasn’t for me, because I’d be up a dozen times a night to check on her and/or put her back into bed. Two, the fine print on the underside of the toddler bed firmly states that you can’t put weight of more than 50 lbs. on it. That rules out mommy and daddy, in a BIG way. I couldn’t sit on it to read her a story, lie on it when she was sick, etc. Frustrating.

This weekend we decided to retire the toddler bed from use in our house and bought a twin bed from someone on Craigslist. A friend gave us her child’s retired bed rails, and we were all set! Sammi’s room looks so much more like a child’s room now, and I have begun to fill the end of her bed with stuffed animals and books for her to play with when she’s awake. It’s become a whole new play area, and one that I can share with her to read to her in the evenings, dodging errant elbows and narrowly missing head butts. Her quilt fits so much more nicely on it, and best of all, more rest for her and more sleep for me!!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

School, School, School (or Why We Can't Forget About School and Just Enjoy the Summer?)

Samantha’s teachers have, on rare occasions, read my blog. I try to keep my work life and Sammi’s school life away from the blog so I definitely don’t blog about work (there’s not much to say about it usually, although the colorful cast of characters may make for good reading), and I think the only people from work who even know about my blog are the ones I have on Facebook (which are limited to, like, 4). School’s a slightly different story. I feel that I need to blog about school from time to time since this is primarily an outlet for what’s going on in Samantha’s life. Blogs are cathartic for me, as well as informational to others. I like to keep that going, and I hate to have to censor too much. My blog address and my Flickr photo site address are both in my personal e-mail signature, so unless I deliberately delete that from my correspondence, people get that information. While I was looking for a 2nd preschool for Samantha, I definitely didn’t include my signature lines in my messages to the schools, as I knew this was not information I wanted any preschool admins to have prior to Sammi’s admittance. Samantha’s current existing preschool teachers are a different story. I really like the fact that they have been here to visit. They’ve been kind of a dream team of collaboration and encouragement, and I feel very fortunate that Samantha has had the opportunity to attend school at CL.

We have decided, for this upcoming school year, to send Samantha to M (see my previous post about this). I called the director to thank her for showing us around and said that we would like very much to have Samantha attend school there. I made sure I was very diplomatic when I told her some of the reasons why we preferred her school to L (class structure and classroom style) but I’m sure she knew their shortcomings, as she injected her own obvious display of diplomacy in return. On her suggestion, Steve took Samantha to M yesterday morning to sit in on the class, which doesn’t follow the school system’s schedule and has structured classes year-round (hooray!). He reported that after some initial shyness and tears, she settled into their circle time and joined them in playing at the toy kitchen. He left the room for about 15 minutes and when he returned to tell her it was time to go, she didn’t want to leave. He said the teachers were great with her, and she fit in well with the other children (some of whom are older and will be moving on to Kindergarten next year, but some of whom have just moved up and will be in her class). Our paperwork will be going in this week!

At their request, Sammi’s teacher at CL called for a meeting last Friday to discuss adding a resource teacher to her IEP for the days that she’s attending class at M. I have heard the term before, but really didn’t know what a resource teacher was. Well, heck, I still kind of don’t, but I do know it’s to do with ensuring that Sammi’s needs are met. I sat down with the teacher and Vice Principal, who recommended that a resource teacher visit her at M for 1 ½ hours per day, which I think is great. Isn’t it? Or should I be concerned that time with the resource teacher will take away from the time she could be working on the regular class learning with her peers? Now that I think of it, perhaps I should have asked this question. Will she be pulled out? Will this teacher just aid her within the classroom? I definitely don’t want her to miss Spanish or math or reading. But again, I am glad for the additional 1 on 1 help. We wouldn’t have asked for this ourselves, as we didn’t know it was an option, and are grateful that it was recommended to us. In Friday’s meeting, the VP informed me that at CL they don’t make it a practice to tell parents they can’t do something, but they do make it a practice to tell them let’s see how we can do something. That’s truly the kind of environment I want for my daughter as she moves through the school system. CL is not our home school. Now I’m a bit torn. Do I want to have Sammi in her home school for Kindergarten on up so she gets to know the children from the neighborhood - the children she will be growing up with - better? Or do I want her in a different school where I know her needs will be met? I think this year will be calling for an awful lot of research to be done on our part. Is it common practice (or allowable) for parents to meet with the school administration of their home school to be sure that the placement there would be right for their children with special needs? How else could one establish LRE (Least Restrictive Environment, for those of you who have not yet had the good fortune of learning all the crazy, special needs acronyms) before the first day of school?

Sorry for writing a book again. Just airing the usual mush floating around and around in my head.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Quick Note from the Back Yard Kiddie Pool on a Very Hot Father's Day

And now for a nice quiet Father's Day message from my girl who had the droopiest, heaviest, most water-logged pull-up in the entire western hemisphere after these photos were taken. 

Dear Daddy,

Thank you very much for being my daddy.  I am one very lucky little girl!  My shirt says it all. 



Thursday, June 17, 2010

Guest Post by Her Royal Highness, Princess Samantha Elizabeth

Princess Samantha, here.  Mommy is a few weeks behind on this (I'd have done it myself, but I can't type), but many thanks to Stephanie and Emilia at Daily Smiles for passing this honor along to me!  To accept this award, I will answer some questions about myself, then crown some more princesses.   (Note from Mommy:  as every four-year-old is pretty self-centered, talking about herself will be easy, so here goes!)

How do you know you're a princess?  Um, really?  You're seriously asking me that?  *sigh*  If you must.  I know that I must be decended from royalty, as my father is from England, home to the most recognizable monarchy ever, and my middle name is Elizabeth, after Queen Elizabeth I (note from Mommy:  ...this is true...).  And just look at me!  Who needs more proof than that?  (giggles, princess-like)

What is your favorite thing to do?  I just love to read.  My books that are based on my favorite cartoons are my absolute favorites, like Max & Ruby, Olivia, Dora and Peppa Pig.  I memorize the stories when Mommy reads them, then tell them back my way, which I think is much more exciting.  Oh!  And I just learned how to play Hide-and-Seek, which is my other favorite, favorite, favorite thing to do!  I'm not very good at hiding, but I'm a darn good seeker!  Mommy's not very good at hiding, either (note from Mommy:  ...just you wait until you're allowed to go up and down stairs by yourself - then just try to find me!!). 

What is your life-long dream?  Besides to convince Mommy and Daddy that I should be allowed to eat ice cream every day?  Well, to rule the world, naturally!

What are your thoughts on vegetables?  'terribles are yummy, but only when Daddy is giving me dinner.  When Mommy gives me dinner I don't touch the stuff, and unless Daddy comes and tells me to eat them, I will flat-out refuse.  Just because.

Other likes:  Playing doctor (note from Mommy:  ...throwing baby (doll) out of her stroller, onto the floor and saying, "oh, no, baby!  You okay?  Doctor!" then pulling out the doctor's kit to fix her...), cleaning up messes (note from Mommy:  ...sometimes creating the mess herself with the express purpose of cleaning it up...), chasing the cats (note from Mommy:  ...and kicking them...), bossing people around (note from Mommy:  ...friends, teachers, Mommy...), fruit (yes, I'm finally eating fruit!  Mommy and Daddy said they are so proud of me!), swimming (note from Mommy:  ...well, clinging onto Mommy in the water.  Heaven forbid she gets water in her face, then all bets are off...), school.

Other dislikes:  Hats, washing my hair (note from Mommy:  ...screams bloody murder...), playing outside (except at the playground), listening to what people are asking me to do (but shouldn't Princesses be the ones who tell everyone else what to do?) (note from Mommy:  ...urrrrrrrggggghhhhhh...), shopping (note from Mommy:  ...I'm seriously hoping this changes one day...).

And now to crown some more princesses!  I'd like to bestow this award on my bloggy friends, my amazing little buddy, Princess Sofia , the ever-lovely Princess Maya, and the sweet and spunky Princess Maddie!  I hope to hear more about the three of you soon!

Signing off for now,


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Ice Cream Saturday (see a trend here?)

Yes, ice cream is definitely Samantha's favorite food.  From an ice-cream playdate with one of her classmates on Saturday:

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Eh, who am I kidding?  I'm still going to write a thousand words, as usual.

I consider myself to be pretty “sports neutral.” Now, my “sports neutrality” comes not from a person who likes all sports and doesn’t care what the team is, but from a person who doesn’t like any sports, and doesn’t care what the team is. Well, I do tell a fib here…I was brought up in South Jersey, a portion of the state that aligns itself with Philadelphia rather than New York, and differentiates itself from its North Jersey counterparts by proclaiming that it would rather secede than have anything to do with land north of the Black Horse Pike. Philadelphia was the home town, and a place where I attended numerous Phillies baseball games with my family when I was a child. The Phillies (and baseball) will always have a place in my heart. I was always pretty bad at sports in school, and the last one picked for the teams. I could go on and on about this, but I’ll save it for another blog post when I don’t have anything else to write about. I’m sure this is where my sports apathy comes from, though.

Now my husband, an English transplant in this great country of ours, is a true sportsman. Absolutely any sport (or individual activity, for that matter) that he tries his hand at, he masters rather quickly. He’s got a competitive nature, and this makes him quite driven to do well. And, being English, soccer (er, football) is his calling. He’s supported his beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers (and the English national team, of course) since he was a child, through thick and thin. He eschews those who are fair-weather fans, jumping loyalties with the success of the team. Oddly enough, he, too, embraces the Phillies and all teams Philadelphia since we lived in Philly for the first 5 years of our marriage, his first 5 years in this country.

For me, thinking about sports, or listening to Steve talk about sports always brings to mind an old Far Side comic. It had two pictures of a dog and its owner. The first image showed the owner saying, “Good Ginger, good girl, go fetch the ball, Ginger!” The second image had the caption, “What Dogs Hear…” and the owner is saying, “Blah blah blah, Ginger, blah blah blah, Ginger.” That’s pretty much what it’s like for me.

Anyway, this weekend marked the beginning of the World Cup. Saturday saw the occasion of the US team playing the England team. His English pride decorated our car, our front steps, our daughter and himself. One of our neighbors created a shrine to US soccer in our front yard when we weren’t home. It was very funny and actually flattering, really, that he took the time to do that. We definitely appreciated it. Sadly, we had to take it down just a few hours after it went up, as a storm was coming and we didn’t want it blown across the neighborhood in the wind. I’m kicking myself for not taking a photo. The photo above (with some creative editing to keep our salt-damaged front steps from looking like we live in the projects) is Steve and Samantha before the game. She kept her hat on just long enough to take the picture and her shirt became thoroughly soiled by chocolate ice cream at a playdate less than an hour later.

Even though I’m American, I really don’t mind the obvious slant in our household. As proud of my own country as I am, it almost doesn’t translate to sports for me. Call me a traitor, but my daughter is half-English, and should be allowed to appreciate her heritage. I remain neutral.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Still Laughing (it’s the only way to keep from getting supremely irritated)…

The assumption would be that people that work with children, either in an administrative capacity or an educator’s capacity, should have some knowledge about tact and political correctness. Um, and education. But I know (firsthand, now) that’s not always the case, unfortunately. Sorry this is a long one, but blogging helps to get it out of my head sometimes.

The upcoming 2010 – 2011 school year will be Samantha’s last in preschool. Her progress in the last year has been astounding, to say the least, but when I see what she’s going to be up against for Kindergarten in 2011, I know that she’s got a pretty long way to go. Academically, I feel like she’s either on-par with or a bit ahead of her typical peers, but socially and verbally (and physically, but I’m not as worried about that) she’s certainly well behind. I want so much to be able to give her every opportunity to be as ready as she can be for Kindergarten, and while we love the class, the teachers and the therapists she has in her special education preschool, we know she will need more. This year Sammi will be one of the oldest children in her class, a group of 2 through 5 year olds, many with speech delays. While she may be viewed as a peer model for the younger ones, this still leaves a huge piece missing – the piece that allows her to have a typical peer model to demonstrate social behavior and verbal skills of the typical child her age.

After much thought and discussion, Steve and I have decided that it would be best for Samantha to stay in her current class for 3 days a week, and supplement with 2 days in a typical Pre-K program at a private school. I think the structure that is aimed directly at preparing a child for Kindergarten will be an amazing experience for her. Samantha has no siblings. She doesn’t play with any typically-developing children, other than the ones with mild speech delays in her current class. To even be able to just spend time with these kids will be invaluable, not to mention having the structured Pre-K learning environment.

Today, after putting Samantha on the bus to school, Steve and I went to visit two local private preschools. They are both part of larger chains of schools. For the ease of understanding, let’s call one “M” and one “L.” (You local folks may know which ones I’m referring to…) “M” was first. Excellent pitch by the director who obviously felt very strongly about the organization (she’d been with the company for 17 years!) and was comfortable answering all of our questions in an informed, well-thought-out manner, along with a secure building, well-laid-out, self-contained classrooms, beautifully functional classroom organization, a structured lesson plan, happy, settled children, and a safe, fun outdoor play space. We addressed the fact that Samantha has Down syndrome, and the director (who I’d already told in an e-mail last week) didn’t bat an eyelash. Said they would want a copy of her IEP, and that they’ve had numerous children over the years with special needs. Oh, and on another note, we discovered that one of our friendly neighbors (I think all of our neighbors are friendly, I’m not singling her out because she’s a particularly friendly one over any that might not be friendly…) happens to work there.

“L” is located directly next door to “M.” Like freaking night and day. The director (who the director of “M” said was fairly new) just tried TOO hard. I hate that. It was annoying. If I want to hear someone pitch their organization/product/etc., I want them to be compelling. Informed. Pleasant to listen to. She was none of the aforementioned. The place was absolute chaos. Children were crying, running all over, waiting for breakfast to be served (apparently delayed by nearly an hour due to late staff arrivals – ummm, hellooooo, by the time they finish breakfast, it’ll be lunch time...). The preschoolers and the Pre-Ks all eat in a large open space together. The learning areas were an open floor plan, with too many opportunities for children to wander off. The director stated that they’re pretty loose with the lesson plan, and tend to stray, happily, off plan if the children don’t really want to do what’s on the plan. Okayyyy. How does that help to prepare a child for life in general? What? You don’t want to bathe/ make dinner for your children/put clothes on/go to work? Okay, no problem! No wonder the kids were all over the place. Samantha needs structure. Those other kids need structure.  This place was scary.

Then came the kicker. We had already both decided this place was not the right environment, but I thought I’d ask anyway. You know, the question. And yes, I had told this director about Sammi having Ds on the phone, too. But I asked if they had ever had other children with special needs.

Director of “L”: Well, we’ve never had other children with Downs (internally I cringed, but didn’t fault her, much), but we did have one child who had some sort of retardation (cringe, cringe, cringe…). But you couldn’t tell. You really couldn’t tell much. (whoa there, sister, seriously? You were actually capable of making this conversation worse?) And the child did really well! (and what’s that supposed to mean?)

I heard Steve’s brief intake of breath, as he was struggling with the notion of giving this woman her own teaching moment. But he stopped. I’m glad. I think it really wasn’t the time or place for it. I was at that point, too. I figure if she ever contacts me to find out why we didn’t choose “L,” I will let her know. In a carefully-crafted e-mail, where I won’t say something I regret.

Steve and I had an amusing conversation on the way home, recounting all the reasons why we would never send Samantha there. We then went to Samantha’s school for their annual preschool “recognition ceremony,” a party where the children sang songs for the parents and were just generally adorable. I’ll have to post pics of that later. It was a much-needed breath of fresh air.

I’m still laughing about it. Like I said, it’s the only way to keep from being supremely irritated…

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Monday, June 7, 2010

Birthday Party Sigh of Relief (or The Happy Rat)

We made it out unscathed! As a matter of fact, we made it out quite satisfied and happy. Who woulda thought?

Chuck E. Cheese, or at least the location we attended, was bright, clean and, when we first arrived, empty. Yes, empty! Just a handful of kiddos wandering around, most of whom were attending the same party as us. We could see that it was set up for all hell to break loose later, though, with rows and rows of vacant birthday party tables prepped with plates and balloons. Fortunately, the mother of our birthday child had the foresight to plan this party for 11:30am, before the general mayhem would begin. So, as a result, we had about an hour of playtime with no major competition for games or rides, and learned that that’s the time to go if we are so inclined to plan any future visits. Which we may be...

Samantha had a ball and surprised us, as she so often does, by trying some new things and liking them. Like Whack-a-Mole and coin-op rides. Perhaps we have deprived her over the years by not exposing her to them before, but we’d been scarred by her frequent decisions to take her hands off whatever support device she should be holding on to for dear life and saying, “all done!” That alone has taken years off my own life. She still does it on the swings at the playground (a definite problem), but she seemed to know that you’ve gotta hang onto merry-go-rounds and racehorses and souped up low-rider cars. Good.

A couple of things to note – the pizza was kind of yucky (isn’t that supposed to be CEC’s specialty?), but the birthday cake, made by a friend of the mother of the birthday boy, was spectacular (and beautifully hand-decorated). I could have eaten that icing all day, and I’m pretty sure Samantha could have, too. Several of us remarked on it, and the mother sent us contact information for the woman that made it. Samantha got to spend time with her two best buddies, one of whom is the same typically-developing little girl whose birthday party Samantha attended a few months ago, and who had told Sammi that day that she missed her. Unfortunately, we were just informed that she’s moving out of the country for 4 years, starting this summer. I know Samantha will miss her friend, and I’m feeling very sad about this.

By the time we left, around 1:15pm, the place was hopping, and the birthday party tables were packed to capacity. Samantha was beyond wiped out. She hit that tired/cranky wall that we always try to avoid, crying and displaying her very best flop-and-drop, then sinking her teeth into my shoulder as I tried to load her into her car seat. But she was nearly asleep by the time we got home and when Steve took her up to bed she was unconscious in seconds. I really can’t blame her, especially since we’d been swimming in a friend’s pool right before we went to the party.

We’ll definitely go back to Chuck E. Cheese. And we’ll definitely go back no later than 11:30am.

Car ride

The dreaded Purple One

Whack-a-Mole (or a variation of it)

With her two best buddies

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Scenes from a Desperate Need for Coffee in Bed

The usual morning routine, after I've fought Samantha to get her out of her bedroom where she's been playing, onto the potty and into her school clothes...

Me:  Sammi, why don't you go wake Daddy up?

Sammi:  Okay!  (she runs out of the bathroom and into Mommy & Daddy's bedroom, pushing the door open so hard it bangs against the wall behind it) 

Sammi (yelling loudly):  Daddy, wake UP!  DADDY!!

Steve, formerly sleeping very peacefully, jumps about 4 inches off the bed's surface, startled awake.  He fights to open his eyes, struggling to form every muscle in his face into a smile for his little girl. 

I put Samantha up on the bed to cuddle with Daddy and tell them I'll be back in a minute with his coffee.  I then return with a nice hot cup of instant, setting it down on the nightstand on his side of the bed and scooping Samantha up to take her downstairs for her breakfast.

Sammi:  Bye Daddy!  See you soon!


And now, what transpired yesterday morning when I got Steve's coffee *before* getting Sammi out of her room...

I put Samantha up on the bed to cuddle with Daddy and then tell her to scootch over so I can sit on the bed, too, hoping for a moment of peace and catching up on the tv news before bringing her downstairs for breakfast.

Me:  Ahhh.

Sammi (sitting up and pushing me, HARD, trying to get me off the bed):  NO, Mommy!! 

Me (trying to figure out what her problem is):  What?

Sammi:  No, Mommy!!  Daddy coffee NOW, please!

After nearly falling off the bed anyway, laughing, it took Steve actually showing her his coffee cup to convince her that I had already brought him his coffee that morning to get her to stop pushing me.

Seriously?  This is definitely a child who likes routine.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy, Happy Day

Sunday was an amazing day for us. We got to celebrate our amazing little girl’s 4th birthday with family and friends. There was so much going on in the preparation of the weekend that I was hard pressed to actually stop and remember what that day had been like 4 years prior. The day that we became parents to our beautiful, beautiful baby, graced with that little “something extra” that so many of you know so well. That extra little bit of spice that tops off the chef’s special, making it just that much more surprising and totally unique. It had been a very long road to parenthood, and we were ready for whatever unpredictable curve balls it would throw at us.

Just like we have said at Christmases and birthdays past, this year marked a new awareness and enthusiasm for Sammi leading up to the big day. We had been talking it up with her for weeks, discussing everything from how old she would be (“Four, she said, concentrating hard to move her fingers into position with her thumb folded across her palm and her remaining four digits held up proudly) to whether she wanted a Dora party or a Kai-lan party. Just in the last few weeks she began to perfect her rendition of “Happy Birthday to You,” pronouncing the words accurately and beautifully (but still not singing in any way reflective of a tune). She’s been excited about having “pizza and cake” and about her friends that would be there. I fantasize about what next year’s pre-birthday conversations will be like, but trust me, I’m not rushing them! Take your time to 5, baby! Actually, next year her birthday will fall on Memorial Day. I know this not because I looked it up recently, but because I looked it up when she was born. I remember thinking, her birthday will fall on Memorial Day when she turns 5. Cool, a birthday on a holiday! But loads of time before then…

The last 4 years have passed so quickly, and I can only imagine what the next 4 or 40 have in store for us. But there’s no question that Samantha will continue give us far more frequent reasons to celebrate than the annual birthday fetes.

Being silly with Grandpa.  He'd asked her a question, to which her response was, "hmmm...let's see..."

Sadly, it was too breezy to actually light the candle on her cake.  She still has not gotten to blow out birthday candles due to a number of circumstances over the years.  Maybe next year...?

Yum, cake!