Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Snowy Pines

It was ridiculously warm and rainy last Thursday, but a messy snow storm was forecasted to begin Friday morning.  When Rich picked me up at the train station Thursday night, it was a balmy 55 degrees.  Snow storm?  Impossible.  Overnight I could hear the rain turn to icy pellets and then there was silence and I knew snow had begun to blanket over everything.

I still had to go to work.  (Sigh)

Despite the weather conditions, I debated on whether or not to bring my camera with me to work.  Well, I should say I debated on whether or not to bring my camera with me to work because of the weather conditions.  A snowy city can be beautiful.  My back decided that lugging a camera and two heavy lenses would not be a wise choice.

iPhone photo of the view from my desk mid-storm.  The view of the city is obliterated.

That evening, I left work a little early to catch the train before my normal train.  I had wanted to give myself plenty of time to walk because many areas had not yet been cleared of snow but something came up and I found myself slightly scrambling for time.  I walked with a co-worker and yeah, the massive parking lot that we cut through hadn't been plowed so we slipped and stumbled through piles of heavy, wet snow.  As we crossed the bridge heading toward South Station, the sky to the west had suddenly cleared and a warm, golden light was radiating over the city.  Two seconds later, we passed a guy with a DSLR taking photos.  And then there was another guy with a DSLR.  Others stopped walking to pull out their smart phones and snap off a photo or two.  I, on the other hand, didn't want to miss my train and I'm never satisfied with iPhone photos.  (I'm a camera snob.)  And, well, let's put it this way - Rich and the girls needed to pick me up at the station in bad driving conditions so missing my train (there was no way to run) to take photos with my phone would have been selfish.

And then the sun set and I was stuck on the train and the sky was gorgeous.  I have to say I was extremely jealous that night scrolling through FB looking at all the scenic photos of the snowfall and golden hour light.  This was all I could manage by the time I arrived home, in the almost dark.  Iridescent skies to the east.


The next morning, the girls and I headed outside to check out the snow.  The warmth before the snow had created extremely wet, heavy snow which, while beautiful, was quite damaging.  Trees and branches snapped under the weight of the snow which in turn created large power outages.













Another storm rolled through here on Monday.  That one, thankfully, wasn't as bad as originally forecasted but the girls are now down two snow days.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Raising Readers


Because I've always been a fan of books and reading, I was hopeful that my (future) children would follow in my footsteps.  When the girls were babies, I anticipated the day when our "quiet" time would consist of independent reading.  I imagined all of us sprawled across blankets and chairs by the ocean, warmed by the sun, with books in our hands.  Or on chilly winter afternoons, wrapped in quilts, reading quietly to ourselves.  The initial chaos of three little ones has faded and we have experienced some of these moments.

I don't know if you can really raise kids to be readers.  Some of it has to be genetic.  Everyone is different and if it is difficult for you to read, you most likely won't be interested in picking up a book.  I realized early on that forcing the girls to read wasn't the way to go, so we parented in a manner by which we hoped to foster the joys of reading.  In our case, it was somewhat easy in that the girls prefer reading to math.  Whether they enjoyed reading or not, I also wanted to ensure that they respected the importance of reading.  So when their teachers told them that they should be reading for at least xx minutes each night, I made sure that they were reading for at least xx minutes each night.

Here are some of the ways in which we have encouraged our girls to read:

  • Up until they began to read on their own, we read to them every night.
  • As they began to sound out words and read on their own, we would sit with them one on one each night to listen and help when needed.  I am not a patient person and this phase was not an enjoyable one for me.  I was excited to watch them learn to read but I had to constantly bite my tongue so as not to blurt out the words.
  • Encourage reading on the weekends and during the summer months when school isn't in session.
  • Ensure that they have books to read that are at the appropriate reading level.  If books are too difficult, it can be discouraging and kids can become frustrated.
  • Assist them in looking up words they don't know in the dictionary.  We actually use my old paper dictionaries from when I was in school.
  • We all have library cards and visit the library when our book supply is low.  Never say no to a library visit.
  • Lead by example.   

Years and years ago, well before I had children, a coworker of mine told me how she read books before her son read them in order to ensure the material was appropriate or to be able to explain certain things should things need an explanation.  Granted, at the time, Harry Potter was all the rage and I thought that maybe she just wanted to read Harry Potter.  Now that I have kids, I can't imagine doing this.  In an ideal world, maybe, but there just aren't enough hours in the day, especially with three at the same reading level.  Allie is currently reading I Am Malala, the young readers edition, while I am reading the adult version.  The timing of that just sort of worked out as I had mine on hold with the library.  She's a little young to be reading it but it was in the Scholastic book flyer that supposedly contains age appropriate books and she was very interested in it.  By reading it at the same time, I can answer questions and we've been able to discuss portions of Malala's story.  Emily's in line to read it next.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Project 366


A ring

A mini-teen

What's up?

Groundhog Day celebration

Another one (tooth) bites the dust



Thursday, February 4, 2016

Life Lately





Allie's talk show.  Emily is the gymnastics superstar guest.



Winter uniform





I have to say that I love the girls' outfit choices.  They do it all on their own.


Allie and Emily were moved up to a more difficult class in gymnastics this week so our schedules have shifted once again.  We tend to avoid Saturday activities but this time it couldn't be avoided.  Well, it could have if I had opted to keep them in the lower level for the remainder of the year and then moved them for the summer but they've worked really hard and I feel like they deserve to move now.  Gymnastics is wildly popular around here and there were only two classes with openings.  One conflicted with dance which left us with Saturday.  I am looking forward to it though.  There are benefits to Saturday activities.

Conversation with Emily yesterday morning:

Emily - "I was having a really fun dream this morning and then I realized I had to wake up for school and I didn't want to."

Me - "What kind of dream?"

Emily - "A fun dream!"

Me - "Oh.  Why was it fun?'

Emily - "Because we were at Disney."

Me - "Yes, that does sound like fun.  You just have to wait until later this year and then you will be there for real."

Emily - "Aren't we going on a cruise in April."

Me - "No.  Daddy didn't really want to go on a cruise so we are going to Disney World instead.  Maybe next year we can do the cruise thing."

(Deflect blame to the other parent.)

Emily - "Daddy!  You didn't want to go on a cruise?"

Me - "Well, it's probably for the best.  Let's get everyone healthy and all of Anna's appointments done with.  Next year will be better."

I've been obsessing over Hawaii lately.  I do this every winter.  I've visited the islands twice (too long ago) and both vacations were so spiritually relaxing and that's what I'm craving right now.  Spiritual, mental and emotional relaxation.  And warmth.  More snow tomorrow!  It's been a mild winter thus far so I can't complain.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A spina bifida update

Back in December, Rich and I were invited to a meeting at the school to discuss an evaluation of Anna's IEP (individualized education program.)  By law, IEPs are reviewed every third year for qualification purposes.  Anna had been receiving PT and OT services under her IEP.  There was a discussion surrounding the removal of OT last year, but apparently, they kept up with the services to see how she would transition to third grade, where more is expected of her.  Her IEP also noted the potential need for extra help outside of the classroom with curriculum but that was never needed.  The nursing services she receives are under a health plan and, although related, not part of the IEP.

So during this meeting, Rich and I were a bit surprised to learn that Anna no longer qualified for an IEP.  But she was born with spina bifida.  We knew (and were fine with) her rolling off of OT services but it was the PT that concerned me.  When her physical abilities were tested, she scored within the average range (albeit on the low end) for a third grader.  I thought I knew what I needed to know about IEPs but obviously, I hadn't thought it through.  Every child has the right to a public education and an IEP ensures that a student with special needs has what she needs in order to learn.  In Anna's case, PT services were to ensure that she could safely maneuver around the school, go up and down stairs and play outside with a horde of kids at recess without injury.  Her physical therapists have been so very helpful and we've learned so much from them.  Anna is better at catching herself when falling so (thank god) there haven't been additional injuries requiring stitches or staples.  She's also much more controlled going up and down stairs, but still needs to be reminded to not favor one leg.

Anna is always going to have low muscle tone.  That comes with spina bifida.  What is a current concern is the tightness in her left heel cord.  Her PT had been very much focused on stretching those heel cords.  If Anna doesn't, we can see her walking more on her toes and not descending stairs properly.  As runners, Rich and I know and understand stretching so we've worked with her PT on exercises for home.  Because she has spina bifida and this tightness is a concern, the physical therapist will check in with Anna and her teacher each quarter to ensure that all is well. So she wasn't completely dropped like a hot potato.  I was relieved to hear this and I know her physical therapist is looking out for her.

I would really like to get Anna into a better routine at home for stretching, such as a few times in the morning and again, at night.  Currently, she stretches when she feels that tightness.  For example, I caught her stretching over the weekend.  As she walked into the other room after stretching, she commented that she could now comfortably place her heels on the floor.  Which meant it wasn't comfortable to her earlier and she knew to stretch.

After Anna was released from her IEP and before I'd even had a chance to wrap my head around what to do next, someone with much experience in this area consulted with us and strongly suggested that we look into getting Anna on a 504 Plan.  A 504 Plan helps a child with special health care needs to fully participate in school.  A child may be eligible for accommodations under a 504 Plan if she has a physical or mental health disability that limits one or more major life functions.  It's important to note that a 504 Plan is considered for children who do not qualify for special education services.

Rich and I attended a 504 meeting this week and Anna did qualify, not only due to issues related to spina bifida but also because of her hydrocephalus.  I do want to note that her current teachers are not a concern.  They know Anna and are very accommodating.  We decided to establish the 504 now because she had just come off of an IEP and we figured it would be easier to do this today instead of two years down the road.  I have some concerns with fifth grade, where obviously more is expected of the kids, but my biggest worry for the future is middle school.

So what accommodations would a student with spina bifida receive under a 504 Plan?  Here's an idea of what we discussed:

  • To leave any class at any time to go to the nurse or the bathroom
  • To make up work if absent from class/school 
  • Assistance with organization
  • Placement in a classroom with a structured, organized setting

As part of our conversation with the team at the school, it was determined that Anna doesn't always feel comfortable asking to go to the nurse if at gym, music or art.  This was quickly resolved.  Anna was given special passes and all she has to do is give one to the teacher and she can leave to go to the nurse without having to ask or explain anything.  Her tendency towards disorder, which is connected to her hydrocephalus, causes her to not remember how or feel confident in navigating her way around the school so she is allowed to have a friend walk her to the nurse when she's not comfortable.

I'm happy with the meeting, the progress we've made and where we stand right now.  Thus far, everyone at the school has been supportive but we can't forget that at the end of the day, we are the ultimate advocates for our child.