Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Grand Experiment (or Biting the Bullet, Letting Go, and Having Faith)

I'm sure you've all been hanging on the edges of your seats, awaiting an update on Samantha's progress with staying dry in the mornings.  I stopped counting the consecutive dry days a while back, and there have been some misses in between, but I think that she's been dry for the last solid week or so.  And as far as staying dry in the daytime, she hasn't had an accident in months.  I feel badly, as she has been pretty much in a diaper 24-7 (other than the few hours at her public school each day) since she has been born.  Amazingly, she has never had any significant bouts of diaper rash or anything, but I'd like to give her bum a chance to actually breathe a bit!  Time for Mommy and Daddy to let go... 

On Monday, Sammi wore panties during the day.  When it came time for her nap, Steve kept her in them, but had her sleep on one of those waterproof blue disposable sheets (we had a few left from Sammi's surgery 5 years ago, and kept them tucked away in case we happened to ever need them), just in case.  And she woke up dry.  Actually, she woke up very proud and dry.  On Monday night I invited Samantha to sleep in just panties.  She politely declined.  She's more than happy to wear panties during the day, but I think she was just a bit worried, and felt more comfortable to be wearing a pull-up while sleeping.  So I obliged, and told her we'd do it when she's ready. 

Yesterday I sent her in panties to school.  I usually keep her in a pull-up for her private preschool, because they still nap and I didn't want them to have to deal with a mess (or to embarrass her) if she woke up wet.  At naptime, she told her teacher she wanted to sleep in a pull-up, so she did.  Lastnight she finally agreed to sleep in panties, after no small amount of convincing on our part.  When she went into her room to go to bed, she looked at her closet and said, "Blue!"  Steve said, "Balloon?  What balloon?"  "No, blue!  In the closet." she said.  Steve opened her closet door, not sure what she was talking about, and lo and behold, there was the blue plastic sheet.  Brilliant, or what?  This child seriously gets it.  She's got that little bit of concern that she may not be able to do it, but we keep giving her our absolute confidence that she can, without pressure.  We put her to bed lying on that sheet, and this morning, when she woke up, we heard, "Daddy!  I'm dry!" on the monitor. 

*happy sigh

I am sure there will be the occasional accident, but I am pretty sure we're kissing those pesky pull-ups goodbye forever!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


There's a delicate balance that needs to be set in the mornings.  So many moving parts, so much pre-planning...  It involves child, husband, bathroom, cats, and, of course, the all-important cup of coffee.

Samantha wakes up early, like between 5:45 and 6am early.  But the cat wakes up even earlier, like 5am early.  Now that's just fine on the mornings that I go to the gym and am out of the house before 5am (haha, fooled you, kitty!), but on those precious other days, it really sucks.  At 5, I'll tiptoe downstairs, the cat racing down ahead of me towards his food bowl, then I'll grab him, chuck him under the baby gate guarding the stairs to the basement, then move the gate down so he can't get out.  Theeeen... I'll tiptoe back upstairs, ever-so-careful not to wake sleeping child (or husband) prematurely, crawl back into bed, and go back to sleep until Samantha's voice on the monitor at the foot of the bed wakes me soon after.

Steve's a bit of a late-owl, so I like to be able to let him get his beauty's sleep as much as possible (since he gets to take over all the craziness after I leave for work).  Once I hear Samantha's awake, I turn off the monitor and then it's a bit of a race to get to her to ensure that she's still dry, and get her on the potty.  However, a few things need to happen first - the cat needs to be freed from his prison, and he and the other cat (who would likely have made her presence known soon enough) need their food (litter box is in the basement with him, other cat is upstairs with no litter box access...I don't like to press my luck any more than I have to, given their advanced ages...).  So I hurry downstairs, free the criminal, feed them both, put the electric kettle on and prepare some instant coffee in a cup (I like instant - so sue me...). 

By this time, Samantha will have started calling for me.  We don't want to have the child lock on her bedroom door for too much longer, but we have to figure out how to jury-rig the metal baby gate at the top of the upstairs landing so the cats can still come and go (trust me, you don't want them howling during the night when they can't come and go as they please!) and the child will be deterred from making an unscheduled trip downstairs (I don't think she'd wander down there, but for safety's sake, since she's not completely confident on stairs going down, especially not when half-asleep, I'd rather there was something basic guarding the path).

I go into her room, still without my coffee, usually, as it was still working hard on reaching a boil when I left it, exchange good morning kisses with my beautiful Morning Sunshine Princess, and answer her inquiries as to whether or not I had a good sleep, then get her into the bathroom where I congratulate her and give her a high five for being dry yet again.  All while shushing her to be quiet and begging her to whisper (ugh, she knows the concept, but refuses to do it when it's absolutely necessary!) so as not to wake Daddy.  After the bathroom, she wants to go back into her room and play, sometimes giving Mommy the fake-out and running into Mommy & Daddy's room to rudely awaken Daddy (he's a good sport, though - who wouldn't be, with Samantha as the reason for being forced awake?).  Once she's back in her room, I have to convince her that I need to close her door for a minute, go and get my coffee, and then come back to play with her.  That rarely goes down well, but I seriously, seriously need my coffee, and no amount of fake tears and whining can stop me.  Does that make me a bad mommy? 

And here I sit now, after having gone to retrieve my coffee, while listening to her on the downstairs monitor playing joyfully with her dolls and her books in her room, overjoyed to have squeaked out a few minutes of personal alone time, just me, my coffee and the computer.  A good way to slowly, painlessly, pull me out of my stuperous sleep zone, ready now to face the morning properly.

And that's just the first half-hour...  The rest of the morning is equally precariously balanced, especially on school days, but we've got it down to a science, and it works.

What kind of daring-do, high-wire balancing acts do you do in your house each morning?

Cirque du Soleil, here I come!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Birthday Song Breakthrough

Aaaaaand...we have progress, by way of an easy fix!  For those of you who have been following along, Samantha has a few, uh, issues when it comes to attending birthday parties.  Within the last year I began to piece it all together and have determined that the three major issues, not in any particular order, are:  a)  participating in group activities, like games (so no pinata play or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey for now), b) having to wait for a piece of birthday cake to be cut for her, and c) hearing "Happy Birthday to You" sung by the group, no matter how softly.  Now, that birthday song thing always makes me scratch my head - she loves to sing it at home, and loves hearing us sing it, but just can't deal with a group of people singing it all at once at someone's party.  Whatever.  For  while there I swore I would never take her to another birthday party again, but that would just be me burying my head in the sand and would never fix the problem.

This weekend we had two birthday parties to attend.  The first one was at a playground, always a good location, as there is enough unstructured play to keep Sammi happy.  We politely declined offers to play the pinata game and the pin-the-cherry-on-the-ice-cream-cone (a nice variation!).  When it came time to sing Happy Birthday, I volunteered my hands to cover her ears, which she readily accepted.  Hands firmly placed over her ears, I asked her if that was okay, and she nodded.  She began to scrunch up her face for a cry a few times, but kept hold of herself and pushed through it.  Then she picked out a cupcake, tucked in, and carried on happily. 

The second one, outside at someone's house, was also in a perfect location, as they had a big swing/slide set and a bouncy house with a slide.  While it was pretty difficult to pry her away from the swings, I was surprised when I told her that they were about to sing Happy Birthday and get cake, and she said, okay, and got off the swings.  Like, really surprised.  As we walked over to the table with the cake, she said, "Hands on my ears, Mommy?"  I can't really describe how proud I was.  I know it seems weird, but that's just huge to me.  I promised I would, and when we got to the table, before anyone even began singing, she forcefully pulled my hands onto her ears and pushed them tighter every time I made any move to pull them off.  And I am thrilled to announce she survived the ritual with flying colors!  Then I told her to stand at the table with the other children and wait her turn until she was handed a piece of cake, which she did, with the patience of an expert.

I have received a lot of amazing comments offering support and advice on this topic, both here on my blog and on Facebook, and I have come to realize that this is not so unusual for children, even typical children, and that most often they'll outgrow it eventually.  And I have come to the conclusion that I should accept it rather than fight it, seek a solution, rather than wallow in self-pity and frustration.  It's all a shift of perspective. 

And it works.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Just Because it's Friday

I just realized I've gone a whole week without posting any photos of Samantha!  Oh, my, how the time flies... 

The princess desperately wants to be a driver, I think.  Whether it's a car, a truck or a boat, give her a steering wheel, and she's happy.  Here she is on Gramma's and Grampa's boat down at the lake.  Please ignore the mildewy upholstery in the hasn't been taken out yet this season and is due for a power wash...  

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone, and please don't forget to comment on my last cereal post for a chance to win a cereal/dry foods dispenser!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Nutrition and Breakfast Choices (and Another Giveaway!)

Today I'm going to talk guessed it...cereal!  (Meriah, stop laughing!!)  Yay!  Actually, there will be one more post on this topic and one more giveaway after this one, probably in a week or two.  I've thoroughly enjoyed some of the thoughtful and funny responses I've gotten from you all in the previous cereal posts, so keep them coming!

A recent study showed of DC parents showed that nutrition really doesn't count for anything unless kids are actually eating it.  I can hand Samantha green beans until the cows come home, but if she doesn't like the taste, what's the point of offering up something nutritious?  Same with cereal.  Taste is certainly important.  There is such a huge variety of cereal flavor options available, you really can't go wrong.  Even the pre-sweetened cereals deliver a low calorie count and high nutrient content.  Samantha likes cereal.  Just not with milk.  And I'm okay with that.  She still loves to drink milk.

I really don't think I need to say too much about the taste of cereal - personally, I think it's all good!  And even with the unsweetened variety, I tend to add a bit of sugar.  With each teaspoon of sugar containing @30 calories, I don't think it's too much of a transgression...  So I'll give you some factoids about whole grain content.  From the website:  "Every General Mills Big G cereal contains at least 8 grams of whole grain per serving, and more than 20 General Mills cereals deliver 16 grams or more (at least 48 grams recommended daily)."

This graphic blew me away, especially since this is what I have been eating for the last few days.  Check out these amazing daily percent values - 60% of the folic acid recommendation for children under 4!!  Samantha has a predisposition towards low iron and low zinc, and this totally addresses that, too.  The list goes on and on...

The cereal and gift pack I received and which one of my commenters will receive was provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.  Please leave a comment below and tell me (see, gotta make you work for this!!) what some of the easy ways are to help you ensure that your child gets the necessary nutrients like Vitamin D, calcium, iron, folate and zinc in the foods that they eat.  Alternately, what are some tips you can share some with your fellow parents in the blogosphere to help ensure your children take advantage of the nutritional benefits of cereal?

A random commenter, to be selected on Monday, will receive the super-cool cereal dispenser shown at the top of this post!  I would have photographed my own, but Steve opened the box before I got home from work on the day it arrived and filled it with Goldfish.  Didn't think the sponsors would appreciate that too much...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This and That

Blogger is being uncooperative this morning.  All of those "rolling blackouts" of stuff not working correctly, reported so often by other bloggers, has finally seemed to catch up to me.  I was all set to change things up and go from the natural beauty of the garden microcosm to the natural beauty of the sun my own planet revolves around, Samantha. Pictures all lined up from the weekend, pictures that Blogger won't let me even attempt to upload.

Patience is a virtue. Taking deep breaths, waiting patiently. Nah, it's so much easier to just get ticked off and rant about it, right?

Thank you to everyone who commented on my photos yesterday! I am so appreciative of all of the positive feedback, and inspired to keep looking for the beauty in everything. That's my goal. And for those that asked, I use a Nikon D40. The lens I used for those shots is the one that came with the camera body: 18 mm - 55 mm zoom - f/3.5-5.6, on the Macro setting.

I don't have too much to say today (I think I say that a lot, then proceed to write a novel), but was thinking about summer and how there's just so much to do and so little time to do it! Right now it seems like there's a birthday party pretty much every weekend for one of Sammi's friends. I'm about to start her in swimming lessons, too, probably falling in the middle of the day on Sundays, which pretty much scraps any weekend away plans for 5 weeks. I had been wanting to do private lessons, but the swim instructor contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in semi-private with one other family who has a 4 year old. At first I thought no, but then realized that a) the price would be lower and b) Sammi does well with peer models, and I think if another child is doing what the instructor is asking, she may be more likely to follow suit.

I'm not so sure how she's going to do, though...for one, this kid can't comprehend holding her breath in the water. She knows how to take a deep breath, but I can't tell if she's holding it when we practice. I think she finds it funny and just pretends. This is also a kid who doesn't know how to spit (I know most moms would be thrilled if their kids didn't spit, but this makes brushing with flouride toothpaste a real challenge!), and doesn't know how to sniff (in). If you ask her to smell a flower, she blows out of her nose. I honestly don't even have any idea if she can even smell anything, although I suspect she can because I know she can taste things. It's so frustrating when she gives no indication. Eh, it's the little things that most people take for granted that seem to stump us, but none of that is new to us, right?

Sammi's ENT appointment is next Wednesday. I'm a little anxious about it. I'm really hoping they can prescribe some sort of alternative to long-term medication or surgery to help rid her of her chronic sinus infections. She gets them pretty much every time she gets a cold, and I seriously don't want to have to medicate her with antibiotics every time. Have any of you had a similar situation? I'll certainly update next week after the appointment.

Next Friday is my (ahem) 25th high school reunion (okay, okay, stop snickering, you young'uns!). It's being combined with the year before and the year after, which is pretty cool. Steve and I will be going with some of my friends, with whom I have stayed in touch over the years (thank you for making it easier, Facebook!), but I looked at the RSVP list on Facebook (yes, and thank you again, Facebook, for facilitating the reunion organization and details!) and don't actually know that many people. Of course, the school was huge. Our graduating class had 618 people, so I can imagine that the year before and the year after had similar populations.  The day after the reunion we're making a beach day. I can't wait! Samantha loves the beach, as do Steve and I. Still have to figure out how to finagle a beach week some time this summer...before it all ends!!

Anyway, tomorrow, most likely, I will continue the series of Selling my Soul to Cereal with Part 3 of 4 and talk about the role taste and nutrition play in my breakfast choices. There will also be another great giveaway! I won't tell you what it is yet, but mine arrived yesterday, and it's pretty darn cool!

Congratulations to Erin, random winner of last week's giveaway, who said, "Since my "healthy" cereal is about the same as the sugary stuff, I feel less guitly about giving Emma her cerel. Great debate in our house is the 'cereal for breakfast is okay or not'. Ummm, I win. It's good for dinner sometimes too. Just sayin."

I hope you all enjoyed my novel.

The End.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf... - Rabindranath Tagore

Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving...
                                       - Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Sorry if this is a bit of overkill, but here are the other favorites from my 15 minutes in the garden on Sunday.  Oh, what marvels it held!!!!  

The "Butterfly Bush," doing what it's supposed to do.

On their way...somewhere.  (Doesn't the one in front look like "she" has long eyelashes?  Must be a girl.)

Hello there!

I totally didn't see this guy when I first started photographing the plant.  Then he twitched an antenna...

Here's the green guy again.

I just love how its little wings are folded across its back, its little furry bum covered in pollen.

Got honey?

Saying prayers.  (Young praying mantis, or is this a stick bug?)


Monday, June 20, 2011

The landscape belongs to the person who looks at it... - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I discovered my inner nature photographer this weekend.  While my greatest artistic passion is photographing the natural beauty of my blond-haired, blue-eyed, chromosomally-enhanced daughter, I have another passion for discovering and attempting to capture the natural beauty of, well, nature

Samantha and I took a ride down to my parents' lake house on Saturday, and just 15 minutes with my camera in the garden netted the most amazing finds.  It's incredible what you can see when you just look for it.  Just that little shift in perspective, wearing a different hat and glasses, effectively removing the blinders with which we stumble through our everyday lives, opens up a whole new world. 

I want Samantha to see and appreciate this new world, but a busy 5-year old with her own agenda is a busy 5-year old with her own agenda, and nothing can sway that.  "Samantha, come look at this butterfly/this bug/this flower/that turtle/whatever!  Do you see it?"  "Yes, Mommy, it's a beautiful butterfly/bug/flower/turtle/whatever."  And with barely a glance in the direction of such natural object, off she goes, back towards the house... 

I began another post with all of my favorites from the weekend, but there are so, so many, and so, so many that still need to be edited, that I will save them for another day and just leave you with this one for now.  (Sorry for the over-saturation - once again, my laptop shows me an image quite different from the desktop I'm using now.)

The Promised Land

Friday, June 17, 2011

I CAN Do It!

I'm always so jealous of PeopleWhoRun.  I know I'm not alone in this, as I have had friends say the same thing in conversation about the topic.  How awesome and freeing would it be to just wake up in the morning, pull on some lycra (sooooo glad the Spandex days are behind us...), tie my shoes, and head out the door on a run.  By myself.  Free to go wherever I want in those lovely pre-dawn hours when the dew glistens on the grass and the bunnies dare to cross the roads without fear of becoming statistics (is there even anyone who keeps stats on roadkill?).  I live a few blocks from a lake with a path around a portion of it, and I live almost beside the bike trail that winds through Northern Virginia from Purcellville all the way to Mount Vernon. 

PeopleWhoRun make it look so effortless, and I can only assume how healthy and perfect their bodies must be.  I always assumed I couldn't run.  I may actually have been just making excuses for my lack of desire to exert myself, and even worse...sweat!!  I said that I had poor core strength, that I didn't have the stamina, that I was too tall and my limbs too spindly and uncoordinated.  Sure, maybe those are all true, but I'm learning that those are all things that can be overcome.

I CAN do it!!  Like the Little Engine that Could...I think I can I think I can I think I can... 

There's so much riding on mindset.  Last summer, I decided to get off my slowly-sagging buttocks and drag my sorry self to the gym.  Our HOA has a fantastic facility less than a mile from my house, and it's all included in the price of our monthly HOA fees.  There really are no excuses for not doing it.  So I went 3 days a week at 5am from June to October, ending my reign as self-proclaimed Queen-of-Sticking-With-It when the weather began to change.  There is nothing worse than getting up at the cold, dark time of 4:50am, shivering on the way out the door to the car, working out, then coming home in the same cold, dark dreariness.  Seriously, the elliptical just wasn't worth it.

So, terrified to actually have to get into a bathing suit again this year, terrified that my 25th (gasp!!) high school reunion is in 2 weeks, terrified that if I don't act again now I may miss my window of opportunity to correct all the high-calorie wrongs I'd done to my 40-something body since last October, I knew I had to try again.  And this time I was going to give the elliptical the old heave-ho and go for the Big-Time.  The machine that all those awesome PeopleWhoRun are made of.  The Treadmill.  Inspired by a friend on Facebook to get fit, and thinking just how freaking cool it would be if I actually ran (okay, jogged) in a 5k one day, I have now begun the process of turning these rubbery (and rather flabby) sticks called my legs into lean, mean machines.  Without bionics, thankyouverymuch.

I'm at the end of my 2nd week of this now, and am amazed at what I've gotten my body to do.  I start out with some really fast, strenuous walking for a mile, then begin the run (yes, yes, okay, fast jog).  I've worked my way up to 1 1/2 miles of that, and then do crunches and hip abduction exercises.  If the ability to squeeze my shirt out when I'm done is any indication of effort, I'm doing pretty darn well.

I just need to get to the point where it's all habit.  The point at which I can take it up a notch with minimal effort, at which I can feel confident that neither wind nor rain nor dark of morning hours can deter me from my mission.  The 30+ "likes" on my Facebook post about my run on Wednesday morning really, really made me feel good, so if you were one of those "likes," thank you!  All inspiration and motivation are appreciated, and I'll take it wherever I can get it.

Okay, off to have my bowl of cereal...

(Don't forget to leave a comment on my previous post for a chance to win a breakfast gift pack!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Truth Behind the Cereal Bowl *plus* Another Giveaway!

Continuing my passion for one of my favorite foods of all time, I'm writing again today about cereal, and some facts based on the misconceptions people often have.  Sorry this is a wee bit long, but stick around and read to the bottom for another great giveaway!

Samantha does not eat cereal for breakfast.  I mean, she would, but only if it's dry, like a snack.  I have, on occasion, given this to her, as long as she has a big cup of milk to go along with it.  She refuses to eat it mixed with the milk, though.  Until this morning.  Using one of my new cereal bowls and spoons (I let her choose the color) along with some lovely, colorful, Fruity Cheerios (more about these items at the end of the post!), I plopped them down in front of her and watched anxiously to see if she would eat them.  And she did!!  Well, at least she ate 3 spoonfuls before pushing it away and asking for her usual frozen pancakes.  That's a start, right?  (And secretly, I was a bit pleased because it meant I could eat what was left in the bowl myself.)  I've been working on this for a while, and this was the best attempt so far.  

I, on the other hand, eat cereal for breakfast nearly every day.  And I eat cereal for dinner, probably 2 nights a week.  And sometimes for a late-night snack.  Seriously!  And I prefer the sweetened cereals.  I never worry about adding a ridiculous quantity of calories to my body that seriously does not need them, and I always feel good about getting that extra calcium and vitamin D into my diet with the skim milk. 

It always amazes me that the calorie count is so low in cereal.  I was talking to Steve one day about how I felt that giving sugary cereal to Samantha as an afternoon snack was probably not such a good idea, but he was quick to point out that the calories were considerably lower than several of the other options we had been considering.  Really?  And one of the things I always look at when buying cereal is the amount of fiber, along with the vitamin recommended daily allowance percentages, and am usually pleasantly surprised by my findings.

Consider these facts:
•  A 2009 study of children aged 6 to 18 shows cereal eaters have healthier body weights than those who don´t eat cereal, regardless of sweetness level.
•  Cereal eaters consume less fat than non-cereal eaters.
•  Cereal is lower in calories and higher in nutrition than many other breakfast options like bagels with cream cheese and pancakes.

I find this chart, detailing the sources of children's daily intake of sugar, pretty astounding.  Makes me grateful that Sammi drinks skim milk, doesn't drink soda, and that she still accepts super-watered-down juice with absolutely no question...

Now I know why cereal is such a great way to start my day off right, and a great snack for Sammi!

Please take a look at the video below to see how other moms here in the DC area feel about breakfast:

And now for the giveaway portion of this message, along with a challenge to you...

The cereal and gift pack I received, and which one of you will win, were provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.  To be considered for the drawing for a set of 4 Crate and Barrel cereal bowls, spoons (pictured above - the spoons are very cool colors!) and six individual serving packs of cereal, I challenge you to take a look at the at the Nutrition Facts on the side panel of a box of cereal, and compare those details with the details on other breakfast foods you may eat every day.  Tell me, in your comment, what cereal benefits surprised you the most, and/or what did you learn?

A random commenter will be chosen on Monday. 

And tomorrow, back to our regularly-scheduled program.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Graduation Day, Part II (or No More Whining from Me)

So, let’s see if I can commit to not whining for the rest of the week, okay?  I’ve got some nice, happy, positive stuff going on, too, not the least of which was Monday morning’s preschool graduation from Sammi’s public school. 
I’m still amazed that she has now been in school for a whole 3 years!  I know people always talk about full-inclusion or bust, but the two counties we have lived in where she has attended school, have only had self-contained preschool classrooms available to us, both with the 2-5 year age range combined.  And we were cool with that.  Samantha seriously learned so much there, and for that we are so grateful.  And certainly we are pursuing the full-inclusion format for Kindergarten on up, as we have seen how much she has blossomed in so many ways since attending her “typical” private preschool two days a week this year.
Monday's graduation did not consist of any "performances," and Samantha was very happy with that.  She was in her element, able to interact with parents, teachers and children in the way she wanted to interact.  She danced with the teachers, watched a slideshow of photos from the year, planted a seedling she had been growing, and ate the frosting off of a cupcake (I was honestly shocked she didn't want the rest of the cupcake!).  Gramma and Grampa came as well, and enjoyed watching the chaos of a bunch of little kids doing what little kids do best, charming the pants off of everyone.

Of course, there's a bittersweet ending even to this day.  I'm so sad that Sammi won't be able to go see Miss. D. and Miss T. anymore.  Every morning when she wakes up, she tells me whose class she's going to that day, excited to see the teachers (she's like that with both schools, but we know she'll still be seeing Miss K. and Miss R. at the private school until the end of the summer so I don't have to be sad about that just yet).  But she's a trooper, and I'm sure she'll bounce back quickly.

It's the end of an era, but on to the next adventure we go!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see Samantha's hands anywhere near getting dirty here...I think she knew exactly what she was doing.

With Gramma and Grampa, looking through the beautiful memory book, put together by her teachers, of photos and art projects.

Who needs lipstick, anyway? 

My star.

Proud graduate.

Next up, more about cereal and another great giveaway!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Graduation Day, Part I

“Keep in mind that neither success nor failure is ever final.”  - Roger Babson, American Business Forecaster and Author, 1875-1967

Both preschool graduations are now under our belts (#1 from her "typical" private preschool on Friday afternoon, #2, from her self-contained public school class Monday morning).  Most of you know by now, however, that Friday did not go well.  At all.  (I'll write about Monday's graduation in another day or so.)  And thank you so very, very much to my amazing Facebook friends who listened patiently to me whining about it and offered up so much sage advice and support. 

Still trying to figure it all out.  One person mentioned social anxiety and the hesitation in the face of having to perform in some way or another.  I'm thinking that may be closest to the mark, as it seems to apply to multiple situations.  Sure, she still has an aversion to certain loud noises, but I've found that putting my hands over her ears satisfies her some.  I may look into some ear plugs for those occasions, to keep in my pocket just in case.

Anyway, let's just say she never went up to perform with her class, instead clinging to me in the audience, crying that she wanted to go home.  I managed to convince her to stay until the end, to have dinner with her classmates and have a little unwind time. 

Anyone remember this classic hand-over-the-face look from another recent post?


There's nothing quite like a quiet, empty room for a bit of regrouping and a few quick shots with her cap.

Starting to feel better.

For anyone who may not know it already, hot dogs (even cold ones) have magical restorative qualities, much like cupcakes. 

So do hugs from favorite teachers.

Miss K., her teacher, put together a beautiful slideshow video of the children in the class, comprised of shots taken throughout the shool year.  It was shown to the group after the children's presentation.  While I know there were very few dry eyes from the parents who watched it, I brought my copy home and put it on for Samantha and me to watch, and I blubbered like a baby.  Samantha, in all her empathic glory, gently wiped my tears with her pinky (emulating the way Daddy wipes hers) and said, "It's okay, Mommy.  Don't be sad, be happy!"  And dutifully brought me a tissue from the bathroom.  I explained that sometimes people cry when they're happy, although this felt like a blatant half-truth as the words came out of my mouth.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Princess and the Pub

Steve is English (not that that really has anything to do with anything, but I thought it made a good preface when discussing pubs).  Once in a while he likes to pop over to the local pub for a few pints and a massacre (of a bunch of suckers) on the pool table.  And while we live within walking distance, Samantha and I will sometimes drive over to pick him up.  It's become a source of extreme entertainment for Samantha, who runs full-out through the bar, screaming, "Daaaaaddddddyyyy!!!" and launches herself into his arms, much to the amusement of the patrons, gawping not so much at the fact that there's a small child in the bar (it's a family-friendly place), but at the novelty of the sweet child with massive lung power who obviously adores her Daddy.  And it's a source of extreme pride for Steve, who just loves these moments when he can show his little girl off to his friends.

When I tell her we're going to pick Daddy up at the pub, her eyes light up, and she says, "Upstairs and downstairs?  Play with the balls?  Sit in the chair?"  In translation, there's a 3-step-up seating area with tables, a pool table, and a big leather chair on a dais, much like a throne.

Saturday evening, after Samantha's bath, with her hair down and wild in the stages of drying, we went over to pick Daddy up.  The two photos below were taken with my cell phone.  Thought you all might like some levity from me before I post about the rather dreary events of Friday evening at the first of Sammi's two preschool graduations...

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I really don't have anything today (ummm...I just finished writing this post and realize I had an awful lot more than I thought I did when I started!), but I do have a bit of a growing feeling of anxiety.  It didn't really hit me until lastnight that Samantha is about to graduate preschool.  She started school at 2 yrs. 3 mos., an event that was anxiety-provoking in itself, and I'm finding it hard to believe that it's over, and we're about to head into The Big Time.  Is she ready?  I just don't know.  But I will say, and Steve and I have talked about this plenty, that if she struggles and we feel the need to hold her back a year, at least it will be to repeat a more academic year, rather than preschool.  I do feel she's outgrown that environment, at least in the public school system.  So Bring It On!!!

Tomorrow is the first of two preschool graduations for her.  Her 2-day-per-week private Junior K class is doing a presentation tomorrow afternoon.  I doubt she'll participate (she still shuts down in group activities), but it should still be fun.  I hope.  Or maybe it won't be...I'll have to keep an eye on her for signs of over-stimulation (like a fit of crying - think that'll be obvious enough?) when there's a crowd of children and a crowd of parents all watching what they're doing... 

Monday is the graduation from her public preschool.  I think this one will be harder on me, as she's been there for so long, or at least in the system for so long.  This one is more for real to me.  I guess I should take tissues, huh?  Sure, there's still a summer full of school ahead of us (5 weeks of 3-day/week public summer school and a whole summer of 2-day/week private school), but she's still technically done.

I hope this doesn't come across as whining or anything, and I know I have said time and again that I wouldn't compare Samantha to other kids, but I have to recount this conversation between two typical 5 year old girls at the birthday party Sammi went to last weekend:

Girl 1 (pointing to a little boy standing nearby):  "So, is that your boyfriend?"
Girl 2:  "Yep."
Girl 1:  "I wish I had a boyfriend."

Moments later, upon hearing the song that started coming out of the speakers, one girl squealed, "Oooh, Justin Bieber!!  C'mon, let's go dance to Justin Bieber!"

When did 4 and 5 year olds become teenagers, anyway?  When they say that the child with Ds will stay a child longer, I know this to be true.  Do I mind that?  Not really.  But I do want my child to be able to maintain a typical peer friend-base.  When they say that the developmental gap becomes more and more apparent as the child ages, I know this now to be true, as well.  Not having exposure to typical development on a daily basis definitely puts me at a bit of a disadvantage.  What I think is so "typical" of Samantha's development, really isn't.  But I generally don't know that until I face it head-on in these situations.

At the playground last week, a woman stood next to me, watching her little boy play on the climbers.  Samantha was playing on the slide.  She said, "Oh, she's very tall!  How old is she?"  I responded that she was 5.  I could almost feel her wishing to retract her previous statement as she said, with a slightly flatter affect, "Oh, yes, she is tall."  For a 3 year old.  Sure, she didn't say that, but I'm sure she was thinking it.  And I completely understand.  Doesn't make it any less difficult, but I do understand.

Kindergarten will probably be a reality check.  And again, I'm not whining, I'm just thinking out loud like usual (remember when I said I liked to hear myself think?).  I have no doubt Samantha will do well, for Samantha.  I think her biggest roadblocks are in dealing with transition and group participation.  Sheesh, if she could get past those...  I don't even know where to start. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Baby Sign Language: Communication for All!

First things first...congratulations to Amber who has won the cereal gift pack giveaway!  Amber - please send an e-mail to me at with your address - I'll send you a message on FB in case you don't see this...

When Samantha was about 9 months old, the three of us went to Old Town to sit in a park on the water one afternoon.  I looked over, about 100 feet from where we sat, and there was a boy of about 10 or 12 who had Down syndrome, enjoying the park with his family.  He was signing.  Steve and I had a somewhat panicked discussion about whether or not most people with Ds couldn't talk but could only sign, and what the chances were that Sammi would be in the same situation.  Steve reassured me that it wasn't likely, and that learning signs as a small child wouldn't necessarily replace their ability to speak.  I wasn't so sure.

But Samantha was a relatively early talker.  She said her first word at 11 months (the all-important "more"), and by 15 months had approximately 15-20 spoken words and approximations.  And then suddenly she stopped.  She didn't lose the words she already had learned, but she did stop learning to say new ones.  We thought for sure she'd pick them up again soon, but by 18 months we started to worry that the wait may be longer than we'd hoped.  We had never introduced signs to her prior to this, but we saw the need, and went out and purchased a few baby signs books and flash cards.  I must say, these were an absolute lifesaver.  What I'd thought would never work, in actuality worked like a brilliant charm.  She was obviously relieved at being able to communicate some basic needs and desires, and we were relieved that we knew what she wanted.  And shortly thereafter, we discovered that the reason for her speech development slow-down was likely due to the emerging skill of walking, which began at 21 months.  Speech came back after that, and we watched those ever-crucial signs accompany the spoken words, then eventually taper off and become replaced by them completely.  And we have always been so thankful for the signs that bridged that gap.

Today I have a guest post from the amazing folks over at  This site is so instructive and comprehensive and free!  Please read their post below, and check out the site if you haven't already:

We love baby sign language. Obviously. If we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t have built a website about it. We built our site to help other parents and caregivers, because we know that baby sign language works. We have seen it in action, and we have reaped the rewards. And we want to share this awesome method of communication with other people, just like you!

So, are you skeptical? Some of us were too. We had aunts and grandmothers and mother-in-laws telling us that baby sign language was a hoax, that it was a waste of time, and worst of all, that it would prevent our babies from learning to speak. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Studies show that baby sign language actually helps children learn to speak, even those with developmental delays. BSL helps in so many ways:

•  It encourages communication. This alone teaches children that they were designed to be able to share their thoughts and ideas with others.
•  It caters to all kinds of learners: visual, kinesthetic, and tactile. Obviously, signing is visual. Signing is also kinesthetic, because it involves the large muscle groups, and lots of movements. And it is tactile because the hands never slow down, and frequently touch each other, as well as other parts of the body. Even the sign for mommy, a popular starting sign, asks a child to touch his chin with his thumb. While it might sound kind of silly to us boring grown-ups, many children find this incredibly fun (and funny!).
•  Signing stimulates the same parts of the brain as speaking does, so using one skill helps develop the other.
•  One study showed that children with speech delays attempted more vocalizations when using sign, than they did when using an image reference system.

But signing with your baby is about more than the distant future. Baby sign language can also help you get through a day! It doesn’t take long for a parent to notice that a child can understand what he or she says long before she can verbally respond. This creates an enormous source of frustration for a child. He hears you say that you want to go for a walk. He wants to put on shoes. He cannot tell you this, and you are strapping him into a stroller barefoot! So, he’s screaming his head off. He knows the word for shoe; he just can’t say it yet. But if he knew the sign for shoe, he would have the motor skills to make the sign, or at least make an approximation of the sign, and you, because you are a genius, would know what his approximation meant, and would go get him the shoes. No more screaming!

Let’s make this as simple as possible. Signing is just plain fun. It is fun for us and it is fun for babies. It gives us another way to bond with our children, another way to play, another reason to laugh, and it quickly becomes a surefire way for your child to earn your praise. With baby sign language, everybody wins. These victories are particularly special when we are faced with speech delays, limited motor skills and speech delays. In the case of some babies with Down syndrome it often reduces stress and gives the baby a venue for expression and parents the comfort of meeting the chore needs of their child. It is also a very effective tool of engagement and integration with older and younger siblings.

So, let us help you! Our site has everything you need to get started, and it’s free! If you don’t see something you need, just ask! We are passionate about baby sign language and we truly want to help you! Happy signing!

This guest post was provided by Sign Language for babies, a website dedicated to early childhood communication with a focus on infant signing. We are also home to a wonderfully supportive Facebook community.