‘Cause It’s Summertime

poolWell, it’s unofficially here, summer!

If you are a parent of a school-aged child this is when you get to take a deep, deep breath. If you are a teacher, this is when you smile and think about how much later you’ll soon get to sleep.

When I was a very young, childless and a not-so-clued-in teacher, I would shake my head at the parents who didn’t look forward to having their kids home for summer. In my mind I thought “Hey, they’re yours and you knew summer was coming.” I know, I know. It was judgemental and wrong. No worries though. I have grown.

And since I have grown, I also know when it’s time to shift gears. While I enjoy blogging and keeping everyone in the loop with Juliana and our family, I’m excited to say that I’m taking off from writing this summer to hang out and just “be”.

Soon enough it will be fall and I should be back in writing mode. There will be lots of catching up to do–I’m hoping to finally get my E-book edited, Juliana is headed to kindergarten and Jessa will be turning four. Where is the time going?

However you plan to spend your summer days, I do hope they will include lots of sunshine and all the fun, guilty pleasures that only summer can bring.

See you in September.

This one is for the Henrys

henryAs the school year begins to come to an end, I am reminded of a post that I never got to write last fall. Juliana had a race day at her school and while I wondered how she would participate, I wasn’t worried about her not being included. When I got there to pick her up that afternoon, the teaching assistant told me how she walked Juliana around the course. There were smiles and photo ops all around. Because of her, Juliana completed three laps and got to experience race day like all the other students.

Yes, I know she was just doing her job, but the pride and pleasure with which she spoke while recounting the experience was priceless. It’s not just that she helps my little girl walk around the school, eat her lunch and go potty. It’s the joy with which she delivers it. On the drive home, my mind just drifted. Gratitude is what I felt–for the wonderful people who help support and care for my daughter when I am not around. In my mind, I call them the Henrys.

Picture a flash of me in high school; a good flash. It’s 7th period and I am headed to Mrs. Mooney’s class to tutor. Because I was an aspiring teacher, I loved tutoring. But most of all, I enjoyed my time with Sean and Henry. In my limited memories of the two of them, I remember that Sean had Cerebral Palsy and was in a wheelchair. Henry was his attendant and did all of the writing for Sean and took him to all of his classes. I remember the three of us huddled together sometimes with Henry cracking jokes and Sean and I laughing. They are good memories and I never looked upon Sean as less capable. He just needed extra help and that’s what Henry gave him.

Back then, I was so clueless about what having a disability meant. And I surely didn’t understand anything about Cerebral Palsy. While I knew that Henry played an important part in Sean’s academic life, I never understood the depth of that. Boy do I get it now. I’m so thankful for the Henrys out there; they change my daughter’s life and world with every feeding, diaper change, and wardrobe malfunction. And I just wanted to make sure to get it on the record so that all of our Henrys know how very much they are appreciated.

 

 

What Spring Brings

Sometimes I look at my girls and I am in awe of the simplicity of their happiness. The right cookie, jelly bean treat or hug will bring forth a smile and make their day. It made me think about how we lose that as time goes on and we get older. So, I’ve been taking some mental notes about simple things that bring me joy and Spring is one of them.

Sunshine. Beautiful weather and glimpses of good things that can only come with warmer weather. Yes, I’m liking what spring is bringing; no guilt treats that won’t cost me any pounds or diet cheats. Below is a quick glimpse at what spring 2015 has brought me so far. Spoiler Alert: You won’t get through this post without a smile. I double-dog dare you.

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pig

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Perhaps it Was the Best Week Yet

splash“Splish.” Not splash because I’m talking about a really shallow puddle.

That was the sound of Jessa’s water shoe hitting the pavement. What is better than playing in the rain? And the splishing was icing on the cake.

I’m feeling so good I couldn’t wait to get to the computer to write this post. At the time of this writing, we were just finishing up spring break and it was such a good time. Last year, we spent some time at the beach. But this year we stayed home and each day was filled with a simple, fun thing to do. Since the weather cooperated we got outside a lot. But when Friday came the clouds rolled in. We were scheduled to go to the park and feed the ducks. Rain. No worries. We fed the ducks  and hurried home so Jessa could get in some puddle splashing.

I would like to think that all the pollen swarming around in the Atlanta air landed on the girls like fairy dust and magically turned them into sweet little toddlers last week. But, I know that is very far from the truth. I was the difference. Just a slight change of attitude took our spring break from “Oh boy” to “SHAZAM!”

For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by having both girls home. Tantrums were still in full swing, but I didn’t let them get to me. My patience was almost Job like. When people say that there is power in words I believe that. About a week before spring break, I read this post from Kathryn Jackson. She is a special needs mom who also blogs. This particular post was all about summer and the added stress that it brings for her. Kathryn helped me see that what I feel at break-from-school time is quite normal and that those anxieties could be put to rest with a plan and some prayer.

Suddenly, I knew I didn’t want to dwell on the stress and anxiety that the time would bring. I wanted to go through it at peace with myself for the joy and challenges that were coming. And that is exactly what happened.

 

Easy There, Slow and Steady Wins the Race

So, I’m in my moms’ group Bible study the other day and the question was raised, “What do you do to help you get away from stress and be yourself?” Of course, being the brown-noser that I am (hey, just kidding). I quickly responded, “I have to decorate. And then when I decorate something, I just go back and change it to decorate it again.”

I promise I’m not nuts and I know there are people out there just like me. My husband, Lamar runs. I mean like Forest Gump running. He’s way outta control with it, but that’s aarmoire whole different story.

Since I’m getting back in the saddle on my writing, I’m taking it easy and not delving too deep into big topics. No research, no interviews–yet. But, since I’ve been gone so long, I thought it was the perfect time to share an update to my healthy distraction post. The post was all about putting my attention on something creative to give me a rest from a crazy summer.

Voila! Look what can happen when you need to de-stress. I won’t go through the details of how I painted this dresser two other times before I armoire3finally fell in love with it like this. But I will proudly share that it took me about two years from the time I bought it to get it done. I’m happy about that because I truly believe the saying from the Tortoise and the Hare that ‘slow and steady wins the race.’

I’m winning the race against stress, busyness, tantrums and a host of other things we’d all rather not think about. There are so many projects in my house calling my name. Ohhh, I am going to be sooooo healthy when all is said and done.

Getting Back in the Saddle AGAIN

How often do you get off-track in your life?  I don’t mean the go-into-the-next-room and get sidetracked off-track. I mean a near total derailment of what your ordinary routine, life schedule and being has been. That is how I would describe the last 6 months that I have been away from Juliana’s Journal.

Unlike the block that I had last year when I lost a dear friend, I feel like I floated through fall and winter just trying to get back to me. It’s too hard and long to describe. So, I am not going to try. I’m just happy that I feel like myself again, and I’m ready to get back to sharing the good things that continue to come my way as a special needs mom.

I won’t try to make up for all the months that I didn’t share. Just know that all is well in this special needs life and there are more good things that I’m just itching to write about.

Taking a Moment to Wheel and Weeee!

trikeWhatever we do in a day, we should make it an absolute must not to miss the opportunity for the little pleasures that can turn a regular day into a great one. The other day when I left the house, I didn’t think I’d have a “Wee” moment. But thanks to my three year old I did.

Jessa and I went about our normal routine of pre-k and mom’s bible study. When we left the house, it was cloudy and raining. “It’s a beautiful day,” I told Jessa. And I meant it. I used to dislike cloudy days until I started really stopping to notice how they bring a different glint of pretty than a sunny day. I noticed the leaves of brilliant orange and there was just the right amount of coolness in the air. So I was a little bummed when I got out of my study and the sun was shining. There went all my plans to snuggle inside and enjoy the cool air. But then a better plan came to mind.

As we pulled into the driveway, I said, “It’s so pretty outside, Jessa. Would you like to take a walk?” Then I thought oh, I meant to tell her we were taking a walk to take away the option of her answering no. “I’d like to take a ride on my trike,” she responded. Oh boy, I thought. Trike means mommy stooping down so long that her back will hurt. Trike means Jessa steering out of control and me having to stop her on time. Trike means I have to change my shoes when I was really rockin’ my cute boots. “Okay, trike it is,” I cheerily replied. I headed into the house to gather a quick snack, the trike and helmet. “Oh mommy. I need my camera!” “Okay,” I say in a really nice voice. But in my head I’m thinking we should have just stuck to our routine to go on inside the house.

But I’m so glad I veered from the routine. Jessa took off on her trike and because she’s gotten so good, I didn’t have to stoop too much. “Weeee!” she screamed out as she went racing down the hill with her feet barely able to keep up with the pedals. I kept a steady pace next to her and she was flying. Jessa still insists on looking over her shoulder when she pedals and that day was no different. Looking backwards is a bad idea when going downhill on a plastic toddler trike at breakneck speed. I caught her just in time before she tumbled and a nasty sidewalk wreck occurred. I thought she would get off the trike crying, but she immediately broke out into a thunderous laugh. We both laughed hysterically at the near miss.

Right about the time this was happening our mail carrier came roaring down the hill. We have seen the mail truck a thousand times, but being so close to it brought out a new level of excitement and fascination for Jessa. “Mommy, I need my camera to get a picture of the mail truck.” “Really? Okay,” I said as I handed it over wondering why she would want a picture of it. But she was too excited for me to steal her moment, and we zoomed in to get a good picture.

mailtruck

The near miss and mail truck photo op were the sweetest moments of innocence, giddiness and joy all at once and I’m glad I didn’t miss it. Sometimes, all we need to do is stop to take a close look at those little adventures that can bring a happy moment from the simplest of things.

Are you looking closely? Are you taking a moment? Let’s promise not to miss the little pleasures.

Playing the IEP Favorite Part Game

fav part

It’s conference week at school and that has meant a varied schedule and half-days. Conference week also means an IEP review for Juliana. For those who are new to a special needs life, an IEP is an Individualized Education Program that guides the support and services for students with disabilities.

I hear a lot of bad things about IEP’s and I listen but also filter out information that is more negative than useful. Someday, if we run into a bad IEP team or a teacher who is horrible at managing the process, you can be certain that I’ll write about it and speak my mind. But, I’ve got nothing but praise and high-fives for Juliana’s IEP team. The meeting went well and I was very impressed with the way Juliana’s teacher directed it.

 If I polled a group of special needs parents and said “What was your favorite part of your child’s IEP meeting this year?” I wonder if I would get some odd stares. But, if you asked me the question, I wouldn’t give a blank stare or have to think twice. My favorite part was hearing all the wonderful things that Juliana has accomplished over the last year, and the way her teacher brought it to the forefront of the meeting.

With introductions, greetings and legal logistics out of the way, she said, “Let’s start by reviewing Juliana’s progress report.”  I was glad she started the meeting that way. It set the tone for a positive, productive exchange. Mind you, Lamar and I had already read the document from start to finish. When I sat down to read it a few days ago, a bit of sadness washed over me. You see the IEP is a complete record of everything. With that, there are a list of things that Juliana has not mastered. I dwelled on those things for about five seconds. When I could feel myself going where I didn’t need to, I said a quick prayer of re-direction and thanks and moved on. We know that Juliana has significant developmental delays. But sometimes, it catches me off guard when I see it in writing. While we are realistic about her needs, we are also optimistic of the things she will eventually be able to do. This post from the summer is a testament to that.

Jessa and I have a little game that we play and I guess you could call it “Your Favorite Part.” At the end of the day or the end of an activity I’ll say “What was your favorite part?” Sometimes, we’ll do it at dinner and everyone has to weigh in. You never know what responses you’ll get. Today, Jessa’s favorite part of the day was her broccoli at dinner. No, I am not making this up!  Isn’t this great though? In my mind, it’s an early lesson in gratitude and appreciating the little things.

If I polled a group of special needs parents and said “What was your favorite part of your child’s IEP meeting this year?” I wonder if I would get some odd stares. But, if you asked me the question, I wouldn’t give a blank stare or have to think twice. My favorite part was hearing all the wonderful things that Juliana has accomplished over the last year, and the way her teacher brought it to the forefront of the meeting. We spent a lot of time discussing the good things and celebrating her progress. It’s what you need in an IEP meeting to get some balance.

Maybe there are a lot of things that we are still working toward Juliana mastering. That’s okay. She’ll get there. And that’s the beauty of the favorite part game–even from an IEP review. Because with the favorite part game, you get to focus on the positive and choose the thing that lifted your spirit the most.

Zig Said this is How You Raise a Reader

reading bearThis “Tell Me Something Good” post is inspired by a speaker and author I tremendously admired—Zig Ziglar. I am in the process of reading Better than Good by Zig. The other night when reading, I came across a sentence that made me think twice about a seed I want to continue planting in my girls—the joy of reading.

It is no secret that I love to read. I have loved books all my life. Naturally, we read a lot to the girls. This is what Zig wrote that made me want to step up things a notch. “If you want your children to grow up to be readers, then they need to see you reading, going to the library, getting new books in the mail from book clubs or online retailers, and frequenting library book sales and garage sales looking for great, interesting books.” I thought hmmm. I want to make sure that we become more intentional to explore avenues of encouragement toward reading. Both girls enjoy when we read to them and we do it as much as we can throughout the day. If it’s one of those days when I can’t seem to focus on words and Jessa says, “Here, read this Mommy.” I turn it back to her and say, “Ummm why don’t you read it to me.” I love to hear her version of reading the book as she mimics my own points of emphasis and funny sounds.

Lately, it has warmed my heart to see Juliana gravitating more and more toward books. She loves them! And while she may not be able to quite get the direction right (holding them upside down seems to be her favorite way) it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she recognizes that this is something that is important in our family. On Sundays, she loves to go through the paper with me. And I hand her sections of the paper and comment on the things she’s reading. Or I’ll say, “Here, Juliana. Here’s the one with the cartoons.” Going through the paper is one of her favorite things to do. Now, I save allpeople2 the circulars so she can read them during the week whenever she likes. I’m fascinated at her enjoyment to read and study the words and pictures.

In keeping with our planting-the-reading-seed-theme, last week Jessa and I visited the local library book sale. I couldn’t resist the shot up top of her at the sale. Or the large crowd that was there for books. Yay for reading I say! Yes, I know I sound really corny. But, I cannot begin to tell you the doors that reading has opened for me. And that is what I hope to pass on to my girls. With a good book, you can escape to a wonderful island, join someone in solving a mystery or learn important keys to success. Who wouldn’t want that?

sissyngeorge And so that she wasn’t left out of the little adventure that occurred while she was at school, I let Juliana dig through the bag of books that Jessa and I got that day. Then, the three of us cozied up in a big chair and laughed and ooohed and ahhhed at the great adventures of monkeys, mice and gorillas.

And we did so without even leaving our living room.

When Days Are Just Plain Old Good

julesfirelastSo grateful for a day like the one we had last Saturday. When things are just so good that you want to bottle them up. Can I have a few more of these? There was nothing to rush off to that day. No appointments. No major meltdowns. Love it!

We started out having a normal Saturday. Lamar likes to take one of the girls to breakfast and then the other cutie  stays home with me. If Jessa is home, it means I get a few extra winks. Juliana is always up early, so there is no lingering with her. Her screams say “Mommy, I’m ready for breakfast. Now!” 

jessafirelastWell, I got those few extra winks and the morning was slow and easy; the afternoon was even better.  And because it finally decided to turn into fall, we pulled out the fire pit. Yes, in the middle of the day. Why not?

Jessa insisted that she needed gloves and her hood on because it was sooo cold. “Mommy, I’ve got to have my gloves!”, she exclaimed as she went to build her own mud fire like daddy’s real one.

The girls dashed to and fro’ and the combination of water table, fire, iPad, sun and wind were just perfect. I didn’t get a shot of the real fire because I was too busy guarding the girls so they wouldn’t get too close. But it was warm and great.

I looked at my family enjoying the beautiful day and I just smiled inside and out. Oh man. I love when things are just plain old good.