Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Not the Happy You Expect

When we first signed our son up to play baseball on a special needs team, we had no idea what would happen. A friend told us her daughter had played the previous season, and we trusted her. So we showed up and crossed our fingers. It turned out to be amazing.

Cole had only just begun walking, so we didn't think much would happen. He refused to wear the jersey, wouldn't put on the hat and cried and screamed when we told him he was going to play baseball. He cried and resisted all the way out to the field. 

We held out his arm to his assigned buddies, a pair of incredibly kind 12 year olds, and sat in the bleachers anxiously watching and waiting. What happened was nothing short of a miracle. But then, we've come to expect those when we expect nothing. It didn't happen right away, but little by little, game by game, Cole came around. First he wore the jersey, then the hat. Now, this is a kid who loves him some audience attention. When he realized he was being watched suddenly he cared more about what he was doing. Season one was about discovering the audience. His buddies helped him bat and run the bases. Season two was the turning point - for all of us. Our oldest son, my stepson, found that he had some friends who volunteered as buddies for the teams. So he joined, since he was with us anyway. Cole was thrilled that his big brother was on the field, and we all cheered them on. And then, one day - Cole hit the ball by himself. I fell apart in all kinds of ways, just like I had when he sat up, when he scooted, and when he finally began walking around age 4 1/2. I always harbored hope he would walk. But hit a baseball? Absolutely icing on the cake. We couldn't take enough videos and pictures. That first ball connecting with the bat, and the
realization that no one was helping him do it. I replay it in slow motion in my head often. I sobbed quietly in the stands, surrounded by parents and friends of players and buddies. Then I also realized that this was a place here no one would laugh or judge. They just patted me on the back or hugged me and nodded in true understanding.

At the beginning of Season three the coach could not fulfill the commitment, and my stepson stepped up to take over the role. We were proud but we could not predict the emotions that overtook us the first time Sam pitched to Cole. I am the most fortunate stepmom ever with Sam. I had the opportunity to be part of his young life and watch him become the young man he now is. He is an amazing big brother. 


This past weekend we began season four for Cole. Shortly after the first game of the season began, a beautiful young girl in a wheelchair took home plate. Her buddies helped her bat and maneuver the bases. Faintly at first, then increasingly less so, a woman was weeping in the stands to my left. When I looked over at her she claimed embarrassment. With three new families on our team this year, tears are sure to be expected. We all chimed in to let her know it was ok. After all, we've each had that moment. "I can't believe what I'm seeing!" she said through her tears. "I never thought I'd see this!"


Parents are proud when their child achieves something. We all want happiness for our children. We want to feel happy watching them. But this, this is the moment when your child does something that defies what doctors and professionals said they couldn't do. Like live. 

It's the moment when you experience a happiness you could not have
anticipated when you were forced to divest yourself of the expectations you had of what your life as a parent would be.

A happiness your child also realizes in their own way when they suddenly do something new and exciting. When they discover an audience cheering them on. You can see it in their eyes, even when they cannot speak. "Mom! Did you see me??" 

I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pieds Frais Chic! (Cool, Stylish Feet)

I hate being barefoot at the gym. Obviously on the treadmill, elliptical, etc., I wear sneakers. But I don't like being barefoot for classes like pilates, yoga or barre. Did I mention I really can't stand being barefoot at the gym?

I have taken to not even wearing socks with my sneakers in the past year or so, much to the unhappiness of my heels. I thought I had tough skin and callouses from figure skating. But try a gym work out for, oh, say, a few years without socks, et voila! Hardened, tough feet that could be their own sneakers. The amount of lotion, Eucerin and night socks I have tried and worn to soften my feet is extensive. I thought being off my feet for the past almost year after hip surgery would help. But it hasn't. Now that I am skating again and ready for the gym, I dreaded digging out socks that slip down into my shoes. I cleaned out my sock drawer but I haven't yet hit the gym.

I was then offered a chance to try Shashi socks. I was intrigued by the around the house, then a pair with my sneakers. Although they are meant for the gym floor and yoga mats, they worked great with my sneakers!
design, with mesh on top and grips on the bottom. They feel like the nylon-think socks/tights I wear for skating, but with underneath grips like you would find on house socks/slippers. They are not meant for dance, as you need to be able to slide across the floor and these will now allow that. I first tried them

Shashi founder, Natalie, wanted the same things I have wanted:

"Regardless of the workout, I found there to be a common thread:

  • My preference is for my feet to be protected in a studio environment.
  • While exercising, the heat became stifling, especially with your feet covered.
  • I wanted my workout accessories, including socks, to be a stylish addition to my outfit.
  • I desired different grips."


Shashi socks come in three different styles:

They are definitely more pricey than gym socks, I love these and I can't wait to wear them at the gym!




** I received a review copy of "Small Talk" to facilitate this feature. **








Friday, August 15, 2014

Parlez-Vous?

From the time my children were born, we used sign language with them. Actually, we started learning sign language before they were born. When we found out we were pregnant with triplets, I immediately looked up how to begin learning ASL. I was so afraid I'd have three screaming infants on my hands, and I knew they would be able to communicate long before they could actually articulate with words. So I dove into Signing Time. My then 10 year old
stepson and I watched it frequently, bragging to my husband what we had learned, and egging him on to join us. He did eventually. And boy was he glad.

Once they babies arrived, we had a significant period of time where they were hospitalized due to prematurity. They had a laundry list of medical complications, not the least of which included one having a large scale stroke and two of them suffering pulmonary hemorrhages. Thus, we had no idea what would happen when they finally came home.

Fast forward to age two - my son who suffered the stroke had a vocabulary of over 100 signs and over 50 spoken words. I was amazed at what had occurred, and so encouraged, I began teaching them French. I had them watch things in French, like Little Pim, which had a similar
format to Signing Time, and listen to music, but then I had an idea I hoped would work. And it did. I began signing using words they already knew, while speaking in French. I aimed low, only looking to develop their accent and vocabulary. Suddenly, they began spouting out all kinds of things, randomly, at various times of the day. I was incredulous that it worked, and very excited! I began responding to them in French when they asked questions, using directions in French when crossing the street and while eating. The doctors had said that it was possible for new synapses to grow around the brain injury. It seemed that either the language center in his brain had not been damaged, or new pathways grew to accommodate it. Either way, I was thrilled.

My other two children were only slightly behind him, but I was in awe that the despite a traumatic brain injury, he was leading the way in so much of their development. A miracle! I believe strongly in doing things to stimulate brain growth, even if you have not had a TBI. I enjoy languages and music, both of which are known to do this. So we did as much of both as possible with the kids.


I came across Nicola Lathey's and Tracey Blake's book, "Small Talk" more recently. It focuses on developing language in babies up to four years old. It also divides lays out the chronology of language development with age categories divided into chapters, making it easy to start reading at whatever age your child is at the time. What I liked about it is the simplistic mission: to identify where your child's communication is, and encourage the natural stages of language development.

Supporting what I discovered in my own experiment with my children, "Small Talk points out the positive results from the visual cues signing offers to small children who cannot yet speak. I am convinced that had we not used this approach, we would have endured far more crying. And we heard PLENTY. But understanding that crying is a baby's method of communicating helped us remain motivated to sign. Today, my son still signs while talking, and sometimes when he is too tired to speak.

With two of children ultimately diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, we had no way of knowing just how valuable our decision to focus on language would be. Our daughter's CP is mild. But our son had a stroke, and his entire right side was affected more severely.

"The left hemisphere of the brain controls the movement of the right side of the body, plus speech and language. A child who has a stroke on the left side of the brain may have trouble moving the right side of his body and may have difficulty reading or talking." ~ National Stroke Association

Sign encouraged the use of his right hand, which encouraged his brain, which encouraged his oral motor skills. By the time they were three, they could count to 30 in six languages. Today he watches his favorite shows in many different languages. At a theme park visit a year ago, he began mimicking some other visitors in their own language. They turned and began speaking to him and he looked surprised that anyone understood him. Giving a child early language skills allows them to communicate more effectively with you, the parent. I was selfish. I just didn't want three crying babies. I was outnumbered! What it was however, was a gift that made a bigger difference than we knew possible.



** I received a review copy of "Small Talk" to facilitate this feature. **

Size Up for Fall?


It's already time for school to start. 
It seems like it begins earlier every year. So be ready!


Each year I sort through clothes my children have outgrown. Each year it gets harder to imagine they were ever as small as they once were. Once the old clothes are out, I have to figure out what they will wear in larger sizes. That has been fairly easy to do so far. But that's because I got to choose. It seems they now have opinions on what goes on their bodies. Hmm. I always operated under the philosophy of, "If I want your opinion, I'll give it to you". Despite my best intentions to remain true to that,  they now ask for certain things to wear, like belts or hats, or specific types of shirts or dresses. 

I didn't need a lot, but what I did need I was fortunate enough to find in one place before the school year begins. I truly like shopping at Children's Place. They offer low prices you might find in a discount store, but always feels like a department store. 

My horse loving daughter went to sleep with glitter on her face from hugging  this shirt . It's very important to have soft textured clothing for her sensory challenges. With very few exceptions, I find much of the fabrics at The Children's Place to be soft enough for her.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan in our house was so excited to see this shirt he could not stop jumping up and down.



And this guy is eager to get on a skateboard like his older brother, so this shirt was perfect. He just doesn't know he'll have to wait awhile for the actual board experience. 

I even found a cute purse for my niece and a shirt for my nephew for their birthdays, and they are several years older than my children. 


The equine fan cannot get enough of her horse toys, and has begged for 'western' boots for quite some time. She has no idea these will 'appear' under the tree this Christmas. I'm not sure I can wait that long to see her face. 




** I received store credit at The Children’s Place to facilitate this feature. **

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I'm Trying Not to Blink

The other day a friend posted a photo of her daughter who is about to be a senior in high school. She drives, she grown, she's beautiful . . . and . . . she's no longer a cute little girl.  She commented that she blinked and her baby was all grown.

The picture of her daughter as a small child was precious, and I immediately looked at all three of my 'little ones', growing faster than I want to admit. But they are still small, for now. I can almost see their little bodies stretching out, pushing out baby teeth as the 'grown up' teeth fight to reach the air. They cry over things I might consider silly, but are uber important in their young lives. They fight with each other intensely, but play together with a synchronicity that no one else will approximate.


In the last few years they have not always been at the same schools. This year they will be. They will also have longer hours, more homework, more structure, possibly less in school creativity, They may feel more stressed, they may love every second of it. Either way though, it will be a change. I can already see the changes in their speech, vocabulary and mannerisms. Hormones seeping in, attitudes sometimes.

They bounce back and forth from saying things that offer glimpses of who they will be as older children and even as adults. Then they bounce right back to imaginative play that is so creative I want to blow up a magic bubble around them so the scene remains as I see it. All at once I want to grab my phone and record them playing, even fighting, or take a picture. But I don't want to disturb the vibe if they should see the camera and begin to act goofy. I also don't want to only see their lives through a lens. I want to be in it, on the floor, in the mud and dirt, and getting Otter Pops on me while we make sure the Slip 'n Slide is wet enough to sail across the lawn properly.

When there were no children (of my own) in my life, I clock watched at work, and wished time away until I could do the things I wanted to do. Once I had my triplets, there was so much to do, and still is, that I am rarely able to check a clock. And when I do, I am always surprised at how they day/week/month/season flew by.

It seems like only yesterday we were sleep deprived and terrified at all that needed to happen to care for our premature infant triplets. From holding them, smaller than the palm of our hands, to them being able to swim, ice skate, ride a horse, and shower alone . . . where has the time gone?

I hear them running in from playing with neighbor friends and making up rules to negotiate the play situation. I find toys in their room that no longer hold their interest. They learned what they needed to from them and moved on. I find clothing that is suddenly too small for them to wear any longer, I hold it to my face and breathe in the smallness of their
bodies when it enveloped them. I feel my heart well up, pushing tears into my eyes, puddles of memories trying to make room for new memories and reach the air.

I'm trying not to blink.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Dust Bunnies and Other Tasty Treats

I cleaned a bin of toys out in my daughter's room. Here is what I found:

  • 3 purple sparkly bunnies
  • 1 kitchen egg timer
  • 1 faceless dinosaur
  • 6 mismatched doll size ice skates
  • 1 stringless panda tree ornament, listing without a way to be hung up
  • An assortment of bug catching and inspecting 'equipment'
  • 2 Pez dispensers (Ariel and Jessie, hanging out)
  • 3 flashlights 
  • 1 tiny gumby
  • 6 rubber ducks
  • 5 spin thingies 
  • 10 doll brushes
  • 11 plastic carrots, because, you know, horses

  • 1 bicycle bell, sans bicycle
  • 1 non working kitchen bell timer
  • 1 captain America shield
  • 1 rain stick (homemade)
  • An assortment of Legos (none of which I stepped on, whew)
  • 3 flags (2 American, 1 pirate)
  • 1 deflated beach ball
  • 2 yo-yos

  • 2 handmade Madeline stick dolls (she's an 'artiste')
  • A large variety of farm and other animals, real and imaginary. Some looked to be of the 2-by-2 groupings (no ark in sight), but among them were a family of piggies, one of zebras, and a Hello Kitty group that had one dressed as a bumblebee. Also included was a clearly misguided and identity searching rubber duck and a well fed ladybug.

No, I did not find a partridge, nor did I come across a pear tree. I would have enjoyed encountering a pear martini. And for reference and everyone's benefit, dust bunnies are a decidedly excellent manner in which to kill an appetite. You're welcome.

(ptooey, ptooey)