Monday, February 28, 2011

Therapeutic Listening

I think I really am in some serious need of fluffy posts these days, but here's another serious one to solicit a bit of advice and information from the masses...

A few months ago, Samantha's ST told us about the existence of Therapeutic Listening.  It came up during a conversation about transitioning to new environments, and how difficult these transitions can be for Samantha.  Now until then, I had never heard of this kind of therapy, nor did I know that there were some specially-trained Occupational Therapists that deliver this kind of therapy.  Sensory OTs?  I thought OT was specifically for fine motor skills, like pincer and tripod grips!  Learn something new every day...

We kept the thought in the back of our minds, not putting any real thought into it (wondering how on earth we'd be able to fit it into Samantha's schedule...), but were still intrigued.  Last Saturday, after our escapades at the theater and my sudden realization whilst writing my blog post that Samantha has had issues at nearly every birthday party she's gone to (as well as at a multitude of other situations she's been in), we began to think more about the issue and how we may go about resolving it.  At her Speech Therapy appointment on Thursday morning, Steve spoke to her ST about it.  The ST again mentioned Therapeutic Listening, said they have someone on staff that specializes in this, and gave us some literature to mull over.

I have read over how the fundamental basics of the program work, but am still mystified.  I'd love to get some feedback from any of you who have tried this therapy - how has it worked for your child?  How long did results take?  How did your child react to the program?  What kinds of issues did your child have to begin with, and what kinds of results did you see?

We're in a great position for this, since our therapy center offers it.  We're currently clients there and they said they could fit us into the therapist's schedule.  Also, my insurance and Medicaid should cover it (I have to look into that this week, but doubt that'll be a problem). 

And I want so, so, so much for Samantha to love and thrive in new environments, to enjoy new things, to have a normal life.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bringing Clarity to Yesterday's Post

Holy cow, did I seriously just post 5 days in a row this week??

Just a quick homework assignment for the weekend...

Lisa Peele, in her blog, Living in the Light, has posted DownSyndrome Achieves (A New Era in Advocacy, Part II), a much more eloquent and informed explanation of DSA and it's mission.  Please read this, and  share it!  Our children and loved ones with Ds can have even better, more fulfilling, healthier lives if we all work together to support the cause.  They deserve it.

Off to find some fluffy pics of my angel to post over the weekend...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Just the Facts, Ma'am...(please, please, please read)

Many of you know lots of facts about Down syndrome.  I like to think I do, too.  But this week I learned some facts that I didn't know before, facts that truly astounded and shocked me, facts that left me feeling sad and frustrated, but also energized and motivated.  Motivated to try to rally the troops, those legions of you with loved ones with Ds, to do something so that my daughter, Samantha, the love of my life, can have a longer, healthier, more productive life.

1 in 691 live births is a baby with Down syndrome.  I bet that's a fact that you already knew.

An average of $42 in Federal funding is given per person with Ds (there are @400,000 in the US) for research, compared to the $3,000 per person with Cystic Fibrosis (there are @30,000).  I bet many of you didn't know that one, although I posted it a few weeks ago.

Really, I could spew facts and numbers till the cows come home, but I honestly don't want to lose you on this.  This is too important.

Why such a disparity?    Perhaps a person with a cognitive disability is viewed as less of a person than someone with a physical disability.  Valued less.  Worth less. 

Samantha is not worth less

Ds researchers are able to come up with solutions to the issue of cognition, but they don't have the means.  It overwhelms me to think that there could be a solution in just a few short years that will make a tremendous difference to Sammi.  But without major Federal funding, this won't happen.  We're so close.  It's a no-brainer, really.  But why can't we get the backing we need to do this

Down Syndrome Achieves is an organization dedicated to community support, advocacy, research and lobbying for legislative reform and federal funding for Down syndrome research.  Yes, there are many organizations out there that support families and research, but after more than 40 years of plugging along, there still has been no truly organized effort to join forces and no basic infrastructure to really get things done.  DSA seeks to do just this, and are off to a flying start, with the joint support of several well-known research hospitals and others in a position to influence the folks that make these funding decisions.  Please visit their website,, join their mailing list, help to unite our scattered Ds organizations for the one cause we hold so near and dear to our hearts, making lives better for our children.

I'm not asking for money (although if you happen to have a cushy pocket of disposable income, it might be nice...).

I'm asking for strength in numbers and for you to spread the word, through your blogs, through your tweets, through Facebook, through phone calls and e-mails to your local Down syndrome associations to get involved. Feel free to share this post.  There are so many of you out there with connections. Please reach out and use them.

At a DSA webinar last week, I learned that there are 170 groups with Federal funding ahead of Down syndrome, including tobacco and alcohol cessation programs.  Why??  Counselling can often help someone with an alcohol or tobacco addition.  Counselling will not help someone with Down syndrome.  Yep, I just had to get that one last fact in here...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday Whimsy: A Happy Cupcake Break

We interrupt the previous two exercises in wallowing-in-self-pity for a delicious cupcake break...

my little helper and I made cupcakes on Sunday...

she rolled out the dough...

then blew out the candles...

serious yumminess...

every artist needs a hat...wonder where she got that one...?

Peppa Pig sans her traditional red knit dress...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sensory Issues SUCK: Part II: Saturday

Back to Saturday...

I'd been talking up that we were going to go to a play to see Goldilocks and the Three Bears, a favorite story of hers. We managed to get out of the house pretty uneventfully, and drove the short distance to the little theater in a nearby town, stopping off at Dunkin Donuts first. I knew we were in trouble when she was excited about getting donuts while we were in the car, but completely clammed up once we were in the store. So uncharacteristic of her! Once she was back in the car, happily munching on half of a chocolate-frosted donut, she was acting as if she didn't have a care in the world.

Walking into the theater, she shut down again, grabbing onto me, refusing to give the nice lady at the table our tickets, or to say hello to any of the other little girls waiting in the lobby with their parents.  I don't think 10:30am is close enough to nap time to have played a part in her behavior.

Now, we have been to a theater production before, last year when we went to see Nicklodeon Live. And yes, there were some loud, even shrill performances, but the fact that the theater was so large (absorbing some of the sound, I guess?) and there were plenty of musical numbers, she actually really enjoyed it! We've also been to the movies twice. I had been worried about the volume of the sound in the theaters, but it didn't seem to bother her. I thought she was fine now.

She wasn't.

She was definitely interested in what was going on on stage, but the volume of some of the voices in such a small space really got to her. After moaning for nearly an hour that she wanted to go home (calmed occasionally by me giving her her blankie, giving me the false sense of acceptance of her surroundings), she began to cry, begging me to go. "No bears! Go home!"

Broke.  My.  Heart.

Fortunately, it was a children's performance, with lots of audience participation, so climbing over a row of people, hauling child, two coats and a satchel didn't really disrupt anything. Well, not other than the fact that Goldilocks herself had to squeeze past us on her way to the stage, delivering her lines as she stepped over my bag.  As we passed through the postage-stamp-sized lobby to get to our car, we encountered the four bears of this version of the story waiting in the wings for their cues to re-enter the stage (it was a very small theater, mind you). I thanked them quickly, stating that sensory issues were necessitating our hasty departure. They were sympathetic and visibly moved, and said goodbye to Samantha, who said, "Bye, bears. I love you," as we walked out the door. I saw several sad, furry bear faces waving goodbye from the window as we left.

And then I lost it.

As I buckled her into her car seat, wiping my tears with my hand and trying not to sob, my sweet girl took my head in her hands...

"Mommy, you okay?"

"I'm okay, sweetheart, thank you."

"You have a cute nose." (touching my nose - where did that come from?)

(laughing) "Thank you, baby."

(rubbing my cheek) "I love you mommy."

I cried the whole way home.

From my cell phone...wee little baby bear's bed in front.

From my cell phone...nope, my girl was not happy, even before the show.  Clutching her blankie...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sensory Issues SUCK: Part I

In the interest of keeping this from getting too long, I'm breaking it into 2 posts...

Samantha and I had a pretty dreadful experience on Saturday morning.  I'll get into that in my next post tomorrow, but by way of back story, Sammi's always had a pretty big startle reflex, from the time she was a baby.  Not to loud noises, per se (thunder never posed a problem), but in particular to a woman's loud, sudden, sharply-pitched laughter.  It's a tone that gets her.  Shrill = bad.  And I cringed everytime some well-intentioned person, cooing sweetly over her, suddenly laughed when Samantha responded in turn, because I could see the storm cloud coming a mile away...she'd startle, her lip would begin to quiver, her mouth turned into a frown that could put the Tragedy mask to shame, and the bawling began.  And, inevitably, said well-intentioned person would feel a mixture of guilt and offense, wondering it it's them.  Well, yeah, sort-of, it is.  Over the years the startle has gotten less and less, to the point where I was pretty sure it was gone, apart from a few isolated instances when she was particularly tired (tired + shrill = Very Bad).

I'm hoping some of you can enlighten me - can Sammi's issues with transitioning to new situations be related to audio sensory issues?  She tends to withdraw when in an unfamiliar, loud, crowded, closed environment.  She completely shuts down, and the loquatious little girl she was outside suddenly becomes shy and quiet, whimpering and asking to go home. 

Coincidentally, just Friday, I was thinking about birthday parties, and how in the last year and a half (or more), every. single. birthday party we've gone to has been a drama for her.  She has cried at every. single. one, and begged to go home.  Aren't parties supposed to be fun?  Not for my little girl.  The only parties she hasn't cried at have been her own.  It's weird.  It makes me wonder if it's even worth it to go to any more.  Ever.  I know I'm exaggerating, but I feel so awful telling her it's a partywe're going to have FUNyay!  and all she does is feel miserable.


Part II tomorrow...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Go Wolves!

Steve is a life-long supporter of the English football (that's soccer to you and me...) team, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and, as such, Samantha, by default, is also a fan.  Ask her what that logo on daddy's hat/shirt/jacket/pants is, and her very well-rehearsed answer is, "Go Wolves!

I'm pretending to be ashamed to say I don't even know if Wolves are playing today, but Sammi looked so cute in Daddy's hat, I couldn't resist. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reading the Blood

This week we learned a little something about why doctors spend lots of money and many years going to medical school to become doctors, and why lay people, like ourselves, should not attempt to interpret lab results. Oh, and also why the internet is not an effective diagnostician. Common sense? You’d think so. But when it comes to Samantha’s health and well-being, we think it’s better to be safe and certain than too late and sorry, even if it means a few extra gray hairs.

Sammi had her blood drawn last week for her annual check on all the important stuff for a kid with Down syndrome, as prescribed by her geneticist. Zinc, thyroid, etc. The list is a long one. But with genetic aberrations come some funky things to look out for that are typical for a child with Ds as opposed to a "typical" child. That’s not to say that a typical child can’t have some funky stuff come up, but here’s where we’re at a distinct advantage, in that we start looking for these things from an early age, rather than waiting until there’s a problem and pulling our hair out to figure out what it might be. I was dismayed (but intrigued) to hear an expert once say that it’s not if a person with Down syndrome will have a thyroid problem, but when.

The blood draw went well. Not only did they find a vein on the first try, but Samantha didn’t even cry. Well, at least not until the nurse went to put a Band-Aid on the site. They had to forego the bandage in favor of tape, which was readily accepted. My kid’s weird. The next day we got a call from the geneticist’s nurse, who said that the results were in (astoundingly fast!) and that everything looked good.

The day after that, the hard copy of the results arrived in the mail.

And with this, we compiled the results from all of her previous labs to compare. And Steve noticed something we took to be alarming. White blood counts have decreased steadily over the last 3 years, and monocytes have increased. A quick check on the internet told us that this could mean she’s fighting an infection, and that she has a potentially compromised immune system. Those of you out there who know anything about blood work may be laughing at our naiveté, but hey, we try…

Something to remember about the internet…it does not know how to ask important questions. You can look up productive cough and see the result that tells you that you could have tuberculosis or bacterial pneumonia. Oh no! Get to a hospital asap! What was not asked was if that cough may have been accompanied by a runny nose, which might better suggest a simple cold. Whew. It’s the same with blood test results. A few hours later, after calling Samantha’s pediatrician, who we love, we were informed that the white count and monocytes as they stood alone in the sea of numbers, can not be interpreted as individuals. There is actually an equation that results in the true number used for determining illness such as the dreaded “L” word, and for Samantha, that final number showed that she is in excellent health, with absolutely no cause for concern.

As parents we are trained to worry about our children, to take them to the doctor every time they get a fever or a rash. Health is the most valued concept that we parental detectives seek. And it’s not like we’re looking for anything wrong, we’re looking for what’s right, and within that scope, things that are wrong jump out quickly. And as untrained pseudo-doctors, Moms and Dads have their limits of knowledge. But we are not too old to learn.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Scenes From the Morning After a Restless Night: I Heart Monkey

Mommy (6:30am, sitting on Samantha's bed, trying to get her snotty - as in snot - child motivated to get ready for school):  "Happy Valentine's Day, baby."

Samantha (nose still slightly crusted with dried blood after a late-night nosebleed):  "Happy Valentimes Day, Mommy!"

Mommy (pointing to the pink sock monkey clutched tightly in Sammi's hands that she and Daddy had just given her):  "What do you want to name the monkey?"

Sammi:  "Alex."

Mommy:  "Alex?  Okay."

Sammi (apparently changing her mind on the fly):  "Nate."

Mommy (realizing that the pink monkey may be destined to have a boy's name):  "Nate?  That's a boy's name, honey.  Can you think of a girl's name?"

Sammi (apparently not quite getting the hint):  "Colin."

Mommy (still trying to make her point):  "Come on, think of something other than a boy's name."

Sammi:  "Hmmm...let me see...Monkey!"

Sounds good to me. 

I'm particularly enamored of this little pink monkey, not only for its connection to Valentine's Day and the fact that it marks the first time Sammi has received a gift on Valentine's Day and certainly not the last.  I'm loving this monkey because of the lovely stitched heart on its chest, more symbolic of the prevalence of CHD, congenital heart defects, in children, such as Samantha herself. 

Today is the last day of CHD Awareness Week.  It's like having a 2nd Heart Day, in that it makes me stop and reflect on how fortunate we are to live in this time, a time that allows my child to have life.  How fortunate we are that a brilliant surgeon was able to hold my girl's heart in his hands and mend it, good as new.  "A 99 year repair!" Samantha's local cardiologist says.  We love him.  If I'd thought about it ahead of time, I'd have sent him a card to mark this week.  

Right now Samantha has a cold.  While the nights are a little rough, she jumps right back into the swing of things as soon as (okay, sooner than) the sun comes up, chapstick on her lips, tissues stuffed into her pockets, and a smile and energy that put me to shame when I've got a cold.  I'll take a cold any day over what so many other children have to endure.  Happy 2nd Heart Day to so many of your kiddos out there, and Happy Valentime's Day to everyone.   :-)  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Farm Truck

Just a slightly indulgent post of some more pics of the old truck on my dad's farm.  I've been attempting to photograph it for more than 20 years, but finally have the images I want, thanks to digital technology, a great lens, and Photoshop Elements. 

I know this is in another post, but think it belongs here again.

This jar is on the ground directly below the truck.  I don't recall seeing it before, but I'm not sure I was looking all that closely.  It's got to be as old as the truck, but it's not as dirty or as buried in the ground as I would have expected from something that had been there for so long.  Any thoughts?  I may have to retrieve it and see what's imprinted on the bottom when I go back for a visit.

What's left of the steering wheel.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

For the Love of PB&J

I'd always thought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were a rite of everyone's childhood.  I mean, what else (besides a chocolate-covered pretzel, of course) could create the perfect combination of sweet and salty?  What else could withstand a half-a-day inside a sweltering sandwich bag in an un-air-conditioned cabin in the unparalleled heat of summer camp, and still be just as tempting and delicious as it was when your mother packed it that morning?

Little did I know, there are actually people out there that don't like peanut butter and jelly, or (gasp!) who have never even tried it!  Really?  My American-centric brain made me forget that peanuts are not native to many other countries (if any at all, actually, but I can't verify that right now), and, like cranberry sauce (weird comment, I know, but after searching high and low one Christmas in London for it, I finally found an exorbitantly-priced, imported bag of Ocean Spray whole berries to make the concoction myself) are not necessarily available in the abundance that we see them here.  My husband, being from England, is one of those that has never tried PB&J, and he has sworn to never let the combo pass his lips without a gun to his head first.  Not like it's not found in the UK, because it is, but again, it was not a rite of childhood for him.

My mother really surprised the heck out of me recently when she confessed to actually not liking PB&J.  I really have nothing to say about this.  There are no excuses for that, especially when she grew up in the "middle-America" small towns found in Pennsylvania and South Jersey.  Besides, she made it for me!  For that I am grateful, as I have always loved it.

PB&J is Samantha's favorite food.  The first time she tried it was when she was 2 1/2, and we were at our local DSA holiday party.  I had been holding off until she was 3 for her to try any nut products, as food allergies scare the crap out of me (even though we have absolutely no family history of any), but her pickiness made feeding her that afternoon a real challenge, and I was desperate for something simple.  And there it was.  Just begging me to say, oh, to hell with the American pediatric guidelines.  So I did.  And I watched her very carefully, but all I saw was pure love.  And then all I saw was the ability to keep and transport food that she actually liked, easily.  Hooray!!! 

Recently Sammi has decided she no longer wants her usual breakfast of toasted frozen pancakes, and only wants peanut butter and jelly toast, so I toast one slice of bread, cut it in half, and put the peanut butter on one side and jelly on the other.  I can't complain about the protein aspect of this, and it makes her happy.  And isn't that what it's all about?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's Cottage Cheese, Folks, Not Ricotta...

Now why did I say ricotta was in the pancakes?  Yuck, that would probably not have worked, unless you happen to prefer marinara over maple syrup...  I have made the change to my previous post, lest anyone else come across that great secret, give it a try, and get completely grossed out.

My father has sent me an e-mail correcting me and sent me the painstakingly detailed recipe for his famous pancakes for those of you who were interested:

a) mix 3 large eggs in bowl w. 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp +/- cinnamon and 1 tablespoon brown sugar

b) add 1 cup flour and mix until it's completely thick and pasty

c) add 1 cup sour cream---mix well

d) add 1 cup cottage cheese ( I usually use 2% small curd but others will do nicely )--mix well until you have a consistency that will pour easily, but won't be too runny. Add and mix in 3/4 - 1 cup blueberries and/or raspberries or other berries. Make sure you've crushed them well enough that they won't go popping out of the batter when you griddle them

e) preheat griddle to 350. Do a test cake. Griddle until the batter starts to bubble throughout the entire surface and then flip It really helps to press the cakes with your spatula until the berries have been set nicely and continue to press and cook until the batter has cooked through. This takes a few minutes. Don't rush it. Try it out when it cools a bit. Of course, use only real maple syrup. Feel free to sprinkle more cinnamon on the cakes before taking them off the griddle. Also helps to dab a touch of margarine on each cake before taking them off the griddle. Transfer to a warming bowl and stow in the oven on WARM while you're doing the next batch or two.

f) this serves 2-4 depending on appetites and how well they came out. Leftovers can be frozen.


And thanks, Dad!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Life on the Farm

This weekend we drove up to the family farm in South Jersey for a (very) quick getaway to visit Sammi's Memom and Pops.  It was nice to escape my usual morning routine of cleaning cat puke off the basement carpet (which I ever-so-diligently resumed this morning, hence the mention...) to awaken to the sounds of woodpeckers and chickadees outside, and the smell of pancakes and coffee wafting up from the kitchen downstairs.

Pops makes some mean pancakes.  Whodathought you could mix cottage cheese and raspberries in this typically traditional breakfast food and make a whole new and tantalizing creation that people talk about for years?  He's been making them forever, and I think it's high time I stole the recipe... 

At 8:30am, I asked Samantha if she wanted to go for a walk.  She said, "to the barn."  So we did.  The barn was a little bit disappointing, holding nothing more these days than my brother's '87 Honda Element, gathering dust and waiting for a buyer while he's off at school in the Midwest.

An old farm truck that's been hiding in the trees for close to a hundred years, no doubt, was again visible with the winter absence of foliage (and ticks).  I always loved that thing.  Didn't venture out far enough to find the teetering outhouse, though, if it still stands.

The substitute for the current lack of horses...
Seriously, this dog is only 8 months old and already stands about 4' tall.  His head alone is the size of...well, I don't know what, but it's huge.

Memom and Pops, recording a storybook for Samantha.

I can't wait to go back!  I think we'll attempt a longer visit in a few weeks.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Saying Goodbye

After more than a year, N. is leaving.  I can't believe it.  We all know how hard it is to let go and allow someone else, in particular a stranger, to come into our homes and take care of our children, so when we find someone that really works out, it's especially sad when they leave.  I remember interviewing her last year, both Steve and I dubious about this person with the difficult-to-understand English, coming from an agency that facilitates the EDCD waiver but generally is not known for working with children.  But Samantha was not.  She warmed to her immediately, and stole the knit hat off of her head, putting it on her own.  The woman was friendly and gracious, and spoke warmly to Samantha, playing along with her antics.  So we gave her a try.  And through good times and some slightly trying times (usually resulting from the language barrier), N. quickly became Samantha's best friend.

However, due to some medical issues, N. is leaving her job to get well.  I worry about how to break it to Sammi, how to tell her N. isn't coming back after this week, when she wakes and asks for her.  How to help her understand.  I'm already envisioning the watering eyes and the quivering lip that we're bound to get when we say, "N. isn't coming today, Samantha..."  My mother had a wonderful idea that we should talk to her about it a lot this week and let Sammi know that we're going to have a party next Saturday to say goodbye.  That may help Samantha to feel a bit more in control about it.  Or Sammi may just think it's N.'s birthday...  (If any of you have any other ideas about how to create a smooth transition for this event, please share!!)

N. still really wants to keep Sammi in her life in some way, and while it's always possible that she may come back one day, she has told Samantha that she'll call her, and will come babysit whenever we need her once she's feeling better.  And in the meantime, hopefully we can go to her house to visit her and bring a get-well card. 

We don't know what will be next.  Who the next person will be that shares 15-20 hours a week with my baby so we can work our jobs after she gets home from school, who can give her the 1 on 1 time she needs and keep her stimulated, engaged and safe.  N. was an educator back in her country, and loved to teach Samantha new things.  She took great pride in Sammi's accomplishments, and celebrated them as much as we did. 

We'll miss her.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

+15: Our Children's Futures Depend on It!

This post could probably use a LOT more fleshing-out, but time is short, and I’ll probably need to write more later. Please read on to find out why MIDNIGHT TONIGHT is a very important deadline!

I just attended a webinar by the Down Syndrome Treatment and Research Foundation (DSRTF), and received a ton of very valuable information pertaining to the current research being done regarding cognitive impairment in individuals with Down syndrome. People with Down syndrome are living twice as long now as they were just 30 years ago, thanks to medical intervention and increased knowledge, but with that increase in age come new issues, such as a decline in cognition due to issues like Alzheimer’s.

Currently, the bulk of research funding comes from NIH, but that funding is woefully inadequate, especially with the breakthroughs on the horizon in Down syndrome research. Currently, an average of just $42 is spent per person for the 400,000 individuals with Down syndrome in the US compared to the $3,000 per person spent for the 30,000 individuals with cystic fibrosis, roughly 67x the amount of funding for Ds. There are also 400,000 people with multiple sclerosis living in the US, and the funding is 8x greater than for Ds.

Drug trials will be starting soon. A major pharmaceutical company is on board. There is so much hope, but not hope based on an intangible dream, this is hope based on reality.

DSRTF needs YOUR help to help our children increase their learning and independence, to see through to fruition the dream that each of us has for our beautiful, chromosomally-enhanced loved ones. To help our children lead more fulfilling and productive lives.

A donor has generously agreed to MATCH each and every dollar donated until MIDNIGHT TONIGHT at a rate of…get this…3 TO 1!!! That means that for every dollar donated, they will donate 3. For every $15 donated, they will match $45. Please visit to donate NOW! Your donations are tax-deductible.

Take 15 seconds.

Tell 15 friends.

Give 15 dollars.

Midnight tonight is the deadline for the match, but by no means the end of the campaign. Continue to pass this information forward, on Facebook, on your blogs, via e-mail, through Twitter, or by any other vehicle of communication you may use.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Brief Glimpse of Her Day

Not a great shot, since I used my cell phone...  But I just love seeing these little glimpses into Samantha's school life.  This was just after we dropped her off yesterday, while we took a few minutes to talk to her teacher.  When we first started sending her to this school (this is the private Junior K program she attends 2 days a week), it took her ages to settle in and get comfortable.  She cried for the first two or three weeks she went, making us wonder if we'd made a mistake.  I knew she had some issues with transitioning to new environments, but I had no idea it would be that rough.  She would even cry right at pickup time in the afternoon, knowing that daddy would be there to rescue her soon, just about breaking our hearts.  It's so exciting to see how she's changed now.  Not only does she get excited to go to school, but she talks about her teachers incessantly (Hi, Miss Katie!), and barely gives a wave goodbye when she's dropped off in the morning, happier to go and explore and play.  Granted, we can't be at school with her to see exactly what she does and how every day, but the school is set up as a long corridor, with classrooms on either side, and long windows along the length of each room, perfect for spying.  When Steve picks her up every day, he carefully peeks into the window, trying to pick her out in the group without being spotted.  By anyone.  One child sees him, and the alarm goes out like wildfire:  "Samantha!!  Your daddy's here!"  

I still worry about her Kindergarten readiness, although others don't seem to.  I do also have to remember that there's still another 7 months yet until then, another 7 months to grow and mature, to learn and discover.  While just a drop in the pan for us old folks, 7 months is nothing to scoff at in the life of a young child - anything is possible!  I wonder what valuable lesson she will teach me next...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Playing the Big Girl Card

Manipulation can be a beautiful thing.  Especially when it's cloaked in a clever veil of empowerment and pride in accomplishment, two things very close to the minds and hearts of preschoolers everywhere.  Are you a big girl, or a baby? we ask.  Samantha has learned that "big girl" is the correct answer befitting such a self-sufficient young lady.  She saves the answer, baby, for moments of silliness or just to be stubborn.  For all the times she insists on doing things herself, or trying to do things herself, she hears our beaming praise, What a big girl you are!!  And she is proud.  And in her own pride, she has made mommy's and daddy's hearts swell to bursting.

We're using those exact moments as positive reinforcement.  We're playing the big girl card, and hope that it continues to wield the power we've discovered it holds.  Samantha, big girls eat their green beans/Samantha, be a big girl and brush your teeth by yourself/Samantha, I know you want mommy to carry you, but big girls walk upstairs by themselves...  And the list goes on.  But one of the big things we're working on with her is to stay dry at night or during naps while she's sleeping.  And we're trying the big girl approach.  Amazingly, with some success. 

Before bed the other night, I stressed that she needed to be a big girl and try to stay dry during the night, that if she needed to use the potty, all she had to do was call me and I'd come get her.  And at 2am, that's exactly what she did.  It hasn't been consistent, and it certainly hasn't always worked, but I'm heartened by the efforts she's made, both at night and at naptime.  Do I think this approach is foolproof?  No way.  But I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, and will continue to employ it until we've shown our hand and worn out our welcome.