Saturday, December 10, 2011

Jolly Holidays

I find comfort in the Christmas holiday season, in traditions old and new, in decking the halls and in trimming the tree. I love to get out the boxes of decorations and ornaments....retelling, once more, the stories behind each & every ornament. Carefully hanging the treasured stockings from their hooks, cuddling while reading or watching favorite holiday tales, placing vinyl clings on windows, strolling down Main Street to take in window displays, joining our quaint community for caroling and tree lighting, and participating in the annual Parade of Lights. It's activities like these that fill my heart with the spirit of the season.

This year, not only have the girls & I revisited some of our favorite activities and traditions, we have also started some new ones. One of those was to try our hand at glass ornament painting. While it took a few bulbs to develop our technique, we had a wonderful time and created hand-made gifts sure to be enjoyed by friends & family alike. The girls will be giving a couple as gifts to girls in the Girl Scout troop while the majority will be traveling the friendly skies to be given as presents to their aunts, uncle & grandmother in Michigan.

One of my goals for this year was to help the girls to understand how fortunate they really are. So, one of the things that we did was give to two of my favorite charities--Operation Christmas Child & Toys For Tots. For Operation Christmas Child, we filled a large shoe box with simple items and a few treats for a girl in need. I think it was a wake-up call to Caitlin that some children do not have such basic items as a toothbrush or a box of crayons. Toys For Tots in our town tries to fill up a school bus with toys for children in our local community who would otherwise not receive a gift (or not many) on Christmas. I took both girls shopping where we selected a gift for a little girl--picking out a very cute doll. Then we drove to where the big bus was parked and Caitlin presented our donation. She saw the volunteer put it on the bus and remarked that while they had come a long way towards filling the bus, that there was still quite a ways to go and that she hoped many other people would help. I made a point of telling her approximately how many children in our county would, most likely, not have a Christmas like the one she would. I really think it's important for children to understand how fortunate they are and to really embrace the true meaning of Christmas--love, humility, charity, thankfulness, togetherness, giving and so much more. Hopefully, Caitlin does understand that Christmas is about more than gifts under the tree. When Cara is older and can understand, I will be teaching her these same lessons. In the meantime, she can just tag along and hopefully absorb what is being said and done.

We also have plans to make an actual gingerbread house (well, it's a kit least it's real gingerbread), visit Santa @ his cabin and make treats to hang in the trees for birds and other woodland creatures. I am really looking forward to making memories and creating new traditions with the girls.

This year, the girls will be making precious memories with their father & his side of the family as they are to spend a week, right around Christmas, with him in Michigan. Stockings are to be decorated and hung from the mantle and new traditions started for them there. No doubt, they will have a wonderful time and be spoiled both with gifts and love. The girls are very excited to see their aunts, uncle, little cousin and grandma. While I will miss them terribly, I cannot wait to hear the stories they were surely tell of the magical time they had in Michigan.

The girls & I will be having our intimate Christmas here in our cozy apartment next weekend prior to their departure for the midwest. I cannot wait to see their eyes light up when they see the carefully-selected, and brightly wrapped, presents under the tree. Christmas really does live in the heart of children in so many ways.

This time of year means something different to everyone. To me, it embodies everything good in the world and celebrates the values that I hold dear all while cherishing the birth of a true miracle. What does this season mean to you?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

All Things Fall

Fall is, by far, my favorite time of year. What's not to love about cool nights, brilliant blue skies, crisp air, changing & falling leaves, pumpkins, rich colors, cozy sweaters...I could go on & on. I love all things Fall. The girls & I have taken part in some of my favorite autumn activities--caramel apple making, Fall colors driving tour, a visit to the pumpkin patch--and we are anxiously awaiting Halloween and the fun that this holiday brings (not to mention the sugar rush).
I love that autumn gives us the excuse to cuddle under warm blankets while sipping cocoa and reading some of my all-time favorite children's books. Crockpot meals, soups and comfort foods are always on the menu. I can often be found sitting in my chair wrapped in my down blanket reading a book or a blog. Perfection.

The girls & I have settled into a happy little routine and are savoring each & every moment that we have together. I don't know what it is about Fall that seems to bring families together, but that's exactly what it does for us.

Hope that you all are enjoying autumn and all the wonderful sights, sounds & smells it brings.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back-to-School 2011

Wow, where did the summer go? Seems like it just started and now, both of my girls are back in school!

We were very lucky to have Ben join us for the girls' first week of school. He flew in from Michigan to spend 6 wonderful days with the girls. I know that Caitlin loved having her dad's hand to hold as they entered her 3rd grade classroom. Ben also was able to walk Cara into her classroom for the first time for her Observation Day (unofficial first day). I am so glad that he was able to be here for these memorable occasions.

Caitlin started 3rd grade **gasp** on August 23rd, a bit reluctant at first but now loves her teacher and the promise she made to be sure that Caitlin is challenged this year. She has already written her first essay and is enjoying working on problems in her math workbook. She will be starting her Gifted & Talented pull-out classes in another week. Once again, Caitlin is also busy with Girl Scouts (a Brownie) and is busy working on earning her badges.

Cara started Kindergarten on August 29th! (It is still so hard to believe that my youngest is 5 years old) Originally, Cara was to go to school in the mornings, being released at 11:05am. She would be pulled out of class several times a week for therapy sessions and for special education assistance. A few days before she was to officially start school, I received a call from her special education teacher telling me that they had come up with a great plan for Cara. Instead of pulling her out of her class for therapy & special ed, thus missing a lot of instructional time, her teacher asked me what I thought about having Cara stay in school all day. She would then get to spend the morning in her Kindergarten class and the afternoon in the special education rooms receiving the educational support she needs as well as all of her therapies. Knowing what a great opportunity this would be for Cara, the decision was quickly made and the plan accepted. Cara had terrific first day and didn't seem to mind being in school all day, at all! At pick-up, she was all smiles, anxious to tell me about her day.

You can see more back-to-school pictures by clicking here, here and here.

I can only hope that the rest of the school year goes as well as these first few days have.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Inch by Inch

It's that time of year again! School is soon to be back in session (3rd grade for Caitlin, 1/2 day Kindergarten for Cara) which means it's time to take care of one back-to-school necessity other than shopping...well-child visits. Both girls had their check-ups yesterday! It's amazing to see how much they've grown in a year. I knew they both had growth spurts this summer but, seeing their heights and weights confirmed this.

Caitlin: 8 years old
Height: 4ft 3 in (65th percentile, no surprises there)
Weight: 53 lbs (34th percentile, right where she should be)

Cara: 3 years old
Height: 3ft 5in (20th percentile, kind of surprised it's not higher but she did grow--pants from spring are now capris)
Weight: 39th percentile (45th percentile, one healthy kiddo)

No shots this time for Caitlin, who is caught up for another few years, I think. Cara endured four shots like a champ, only crying very briefly upon injection. Such a brave girl!

We have some follow-up to do for Cara has her nurse practitioner detected a slight heart murmur--this murmur has been detected off and on for the past few years (once during an ultrasound of her heart/abdomen). We were hoping, and still are, that it would correct itself on its own. We are awaiting a call from the practice as to whether or not a referral to a pediatric cardiologist is in our future. I am a bit concerned about the murmur but know that lots of children have them and are perfectly fine. I almost feel that a reassurance from a cardiologist would be just the thing to put my mind at ease. We also learned that Cara needs to see an ENT regarding the ear tubes that were placed back in 2008. It seems that the little buggers do not want to come out, one being lodged pretty deep in her ear canal. We are probably looking at sedation while the ENT removes the microscopic, offending tube.

All things considered, both girls are strong, healthy and growing well. Gone are my babies and in their place are a young lady and a little girl. Time sure has flown!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cait is 8!

Amazing! My oldest daughter is 8 years old today! Two more years until we hit the double digits! The past 8 years have been such of an incredible journey. Filled with laughter, tears, joy, sorrow and lots of memories and milestones. I cannot wait to see what the year ahead brings. Thank you, Caitlin, for allowing me the privilege of being your momma!

Happy Birthday sweet girl, Happy Birthday!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cara Turns 5!

Happy Birthday Cara Lou!

Cara is officially 5 years old, half of a decade of lighting up the world with her contagious smile and sunny personality! She is one very special & loved little girl.

**Year in memorandum to come soon**

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Going Zippity By

Holy smokes, this summer has just been zipping by! I cannot believe that it's July already. We have been filling our days with work (for me), Boys & Girls Club (for Caitlin) and therapy sessions (for Cara) along with as much fun as we can tolerate. Items have been checked off our Bucket List along with many other fun activities.

One day last week, we decided that the walls of our town were caving in around us and that we need an excursion. So, we took off east to the town of Gunnison, CO. We spent the day at the town park enjoying the wonderful play structures, sunshine and cool breezes. It was nice to go for a very pretty drive and enjoy what another town had to offer. Here is an album of pictures from that day out.

We celebrated the 4th of July with my youngest brother and his wife here in town, as I had to work which made making our annual trek to Ouray a bit impossible. We set in my parents' driveway where we were afforded a wonderful view of the town's brilliant and surprisingly, long last display. Off-key voices could be heard singing the national anthem and "American the Beautiful". Good thing the big booms drowned out our voices or I'm sure birds would have fell from the sky and windows would've broken! Click here to view my Facebook album of pictures.

Soon, both of the girls' birthdays will be upon me! I will have an 8 year-old and a 5 year-old in my house! My goodness, where has the time gone? I'm telling you, don't blink! Caitlin is having her first-ever birthday party in which she's invited her friends. In years past, we have just celebrated with family (there are a lot of July & August birthdays in my family). So, undoubtedly, Caitlin is super excited about this birthday. She has invited 10 of her closest friends and everyone will rendezvous at a local paint-your-own-pottery place to hone their artistic skills and have tie dye cupcakes (if my mom & I can pull this off, I will be super proud of us). Cara's birthday celebration included a trip down to Durango, CO for Day Out with Thomas the Tank Engine. We spent the entire weekend in Durango, not only riding Thomas and taking part in all of the associated activities, but in exploring my alma mater and the beautiful town of Durango. Everyone had a blast and I know that Cara will forever remember seeing Thomas coming chugging into the train station. Click here and here for pictures of our mini vacation. In addition to both girls having their special days, we will also be celebrating with my parents immediately following Caitlin's pottery party. Caitlin has selected a local pizza joint as the destination and Cara has picked out Thomas table top decorations for when we blow out candles and officially mark another birthday for both girls. I hope to do my yearly tribute to both girls in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back.

As the summer continues to tick away, we are hoping to fill it with my fun and togetherness. There are still many items to be crossed off of our Bucket List and many more trips to the local library planned (Caitlin has read over 200 hours so far!) as we help the library send food and livestock to those in countries of need. I have thoroughly enjoyed having more time to spend with my daughters and have treasured all the memories that we have made and will continue to make.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

What's Behind Door #2?

At the end of the school year, I had a meeting with the acceleration committee at Caitlin's school to discuss whether or not she's a good candidate for moving into 4th grade next year. If you recall from my previous post, Caitlin was undergoing a garden variety of testing and talking with the school psychologist to evaluate her readiness.

After weeks of testing and observation, everyone gathered to share their thoughts and a decision was agreed upon. While Caitlin's test scores put her consistently in the 99 percentile for both her age and grade and she showed intellectual maturity, it was decided that she is still very much a 7, almost 8 year old girl who enjoys activities appropriate to her age and has the social maturity of an 8 year old. It was mentioned that 3rd grade is a big developmental year for students, both academically & socially as they cross the threshold into the intermediate elementary grades and the expectations that come with it. The G&T coordinator also noticed that Caitlin enjoys being "top dog" or "teacher's helper" in her current class and if she was to accelerate, she would not be the top student in the class but rather one of the high-average kids. Caitlin thrives on being a leader and a helper and we didn't want to deprive her of that.

However, it was duly noted that she does need more advanced lesson plans and grouping with like-minded peers in order to continue to meet her needs academically and to keep her challenged. So, Caitlin has been accepted into the Gifted & Talented program through the school district and will receive services starting in the fall. These services will continue as long as she wants or needs them without her having to re-qualify every year. The services will include a pull-out once a week with the G&T teacher where she will work on special projects with other 3rd-5th grade advanced students. She will also receive curriculum assistance in the classroom meaning that her teacher will work with the G&T teacher to "enhance" lesson plans to meet her advanced learning level. Caitlin will also be clustered in a group within the classroom of other G&T students who will be working on more challenging lessons with her. All of these services will be summed up in an ALP (Advanced Learning Plan) which will be followed by her teachers and the gifted and talented coordinator. A new ALP will be drafted every year with new goals, techniques, recommendations and procedures for implementation.

Caitlin was a bit disappointed at first, not to be moving to the 4th grade but once I explained the reasoning and that next year would be so much better than this year (in terms of the boredom), she was on board. I think she likes the idea that she'll still be with her peers but also able to do work that challenges her. I think it's a win-win combination!

I have to say, I have been so pleasantly surprised with her school and their coordination with the acceleration request. It is so comforting to know that so many people were determined to find the best fit for Caitlin, always keeping her best interests at heart. I was really unsure about the schools here when we moved, but my expectations have been far exceeded, for both girls.


In hopes of finding a new & inspired direction for my life (surprise--I don't plan to work retail for the rest of my days), I stumbled upon a personality type quiz. Here are the results:

Your iPersonic Type: The Good-natured Realist

Good-natured Realists are warm-hearted, helpful personalities. They do their work conscientiously and have a pronounced organising talent. They often feel they are committed to traditional values. The family in particular is extremely important to Good-natured Realists. Their greatest pleasure is making themselves useful and taking care of other people. But they do not like pushing themselves to the fore; they prefer to fulfil their tasks out of the limelight. Good-natured Realists are real workaholics; they are very reliable and nothing is too much for them when it is a question of completing a project. Thoroughness, conscientiousness and sense of duty are their strongest points. They prefer established and familiar situations to new and unknown situations.

In dealing with others, Good-natured Realists are considerate and obliging; they are always happy to put aside their own requirements in the interest of their family and friends. Their home is mostly very well cared-for, cosy and tidy. Their perfectionism on the one hand and their aversion to delegating tasks on the other hand often lead to them taking on too much both professionally and privately. They cannot stand discord; conflicts make them very unhappy. One could almost describe them as being harmony-addicted - and this sometimes leads them to strongly neglecting themselves and their own wishes because they are unable to bring themselves to put up a fight.

As a Good-natured Realist you are one of the introverted personality types. Consequently, you don’t appreciate too much commotion around you so you can devote yourself to your task with sufficient intensity and concentration. You can work very well alone and while being immersed in a task, you don’t appreciate to be continuously interrupted or disturbed.

Nevertheless, your need for harmony and your adaptability make you a good team worker if necessary. Therefore, you are relatively flexible when choosing your working environment, and have the ability to decide which setting you prefer. A profession that gives you the feeling that you are doing something for other people is important to you. Good-natured Realists are very caring people and enjoy taking care of others. Despite your in-troverted personality and because you are a feeler-type, it is easy for you to put yourself in the place of others and sense their needs.

You are most comfortable in a one-on-one situation; you are less enthusiastic about delivering speeches to major groups. At any rate, when choosing your profession, make sure to surround yourself with people who share your personal ideals and convictions, and on whom you can count to work with you. Too many obstacles to your caring for and supporting others make you unhappy.

For you, it is important to depend on a clear and structured workflow. You need time to prepare yourself for new demands, possibly acquire new competencies, and finish one task after the other. As a matter of fact, you are less opposed to routine work than many other personality types. To a certain extent, you don’t mind dealing with them. In your workday, some diversions should naturally be available, but juggling three balls at the same time isn’t something you enjoy doing because you would be concerned that the quality of your work would suffer. That would be a nightmare for your perfectionist expectations of yourself and your accomplishments.

Thoroughness and accuracy are some of your great strengths. While other people stand in perplexity before that which you have accomplished, you see room for improvement in everything you have ever done. In your professional life, time-sensitive projects are especially helpful to you because you would be trying to improve rather unimportant details of a project until doomsday.

Scary how much a 5 questions can tell so much about a person. Now, anyone care to tell me what this means in terms of future careers?!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Ambitious Summer Bucket List-2011 Edition

After brainstorming with the girls, we have put together our Summer Bucket List! Summer official starts tomorrow afternoon and we are all so excited to be able to spend more time together and cross off some of the activities on the list.

Without further ado, here is our Bucket List *drum roll*

Visit Dinosaur Journey in Fruita
Step back in time at the Montrose Historical Museum
Burn off some energy at Banana's Fun Park
Make friends with the animals at Pueblo Zoo
Go for a swim at the Aquatic Center or Ouray Hot Springs Pool
View flora and butterflies at Western Colorado Botanical Gardens
Learn all things locomotive at the Ridgway Railroad Museum
Swim in the Ridgway Reservoir
Go on a hike in the mountains (I know several kid-friendly trails)
Visit the Climbing Tree Children's Museum
Fly a hike, up to the highest heights
Go camping & roast marshmallows (This will be a first for the girls, if I can make it happen)
Take in an outdoor concert/performance
Go to the drive-in more than once
Hone our pottery-painting skills at Amazing Glaze (This will most likely be accomplished via Caitlin's 8th birthday party in July)
Go to a National Park or National Monument (We are lucky to live close to several of both)
Join the library's summer reading program (Heading out today to cross this one off, with suggested summer reading lists in hand)
Watch fireworks (Hopefully from our traditional spot in fabulous Ouray, CO)
Ride a train (Day Out with Thomas for Cara's early birthday in June will cross this one off)

So, that's OUR list, what's on yours?!

Monday, May 16, 2011


In a previous post, I mentioned that I was going to talk to the principal at Caitlin's school about possibly moving her into the 4th grade next year, thus skipping 3rd, due to the material not being challenging enough to keep her from being bored.

Well, I did have a meeting with the principal back in mid-April and I addressed my concerns to her. Turns out, she had been aware of Caitlin's academic progress and had a feeling that I would be coming in to discuss acceleration. We sat down and she informed me of how the process works and also the options that we have for Caitlin. I was relieved to see that the school does have a method for dealing with acceleration requests and also has other options available if acceleration is determined not to be the best fit for the child.

The process is pretty grueling, surprisingly. First, Caitlin would be tested using practical intelligence testing methods to determine where she was academically (problem solving and reasoning being a big component). These tests were broken down over a few weeks as to not overwhelm Caitlin nor to make her miss too much classroom instruction. Caitlin said that most of the questions were very easy for her. The next step was to have her meet with the school psychologist so that he could determine her social and emotional readiness for acceleration. The counselor also sent home several behavioral surveys for me to do about Caitlin so that they could get a complete picture of her. The final step of the acceleration process is a team meeting which consists of myself, the principal, the gifted & talented coordinator for the district, the school's gifted & talented teacher, the school counselor, Caitlin's teacher, a 3rd grade teacher and a 4th grade teacher. Everyone will share their findings and then we will come to a conclusion of what we think would be the best plan for Caitlin for the fall.

Regardless of the decision to accelerate or not, Caitlin will be in the Gifted & Talented program next year which includes both pull-outs with the G&T teacher and collaboration with the classroom teacher to make assignments more challenging for her. In addition, Caitlin will be "clustered" within the classroom with other G&T peers. Caitlin & I both are hoping for acceleration into the 4th grade, but if that doesn't seem to be the best place for her, all things considered, it is kind of comforting to know that there is a back-up plan in place. Should everyone agree that acceleration is best, she will be put into 4th grade, in a "cluster" there as well and she will be continuously monitored by the G&T teacher as well as the school counselor to make sure that the transition is going smoothly.

The acceleration team meeting is on Wednesday and I am anxious to hear what everyone has to say and for a decision to be made. Caitlin's best interests are in mind, so I feel that either way, she will be challenged next year.

Kindergarten IEP implementation

Last week, Cara & I met with her current therapists from preschool along with the therapists at the elementary that she will be attending in the fall to discuss implementation of her IEP in the elementary setting.

I was so pleased to find out that Cara will be getting more services this fall than she ever has before. Physical & occupational therapy will be increasing to twice a week for 45 minutes and speech therapy will be up to 180 hours/month. Cara will also be doing pull outs into the special education classrooms for several hours a few times a week. In addition to therapy services, Cara will also be sharing a special ed para-pro with one other student in her classroom. This is wonderful for her as she really needs that help and support in order to fully participate in classroom activities.

A few things that have changed on her IEP are that she needs more monitoring when using the restroom (she will not wipe unless told to, etc) and that she will be watched carefully on the playground since Cara still does not have the greatest balance in the world and she requires a larger base of support than other kids.

The subject of busing was also brought up. I mentioned that I kind of feared for Cara's safety on the bus that Caitlin currently rides because it is a full & rowdy bus even though the driver does the best that she can. Oftentimes, there are 3 kids to a seat which could make a difficult task out of Cara finding a seat herself and really put a spotlight on her. The bus stop is also about 8 blocks away from our house, which can be a bit much for Cara as she still suffers from muscle fatigue due to her cerebral palsy. Currently, Cara rides a bus to preschool that only has maybe 20 kids on it with an aide who helps the children to & from their car seats. I have to help Cara up the steps most days as well. Her bus stop is right outside of our complex and not a long distance for her to walk. So, when I voiced my concerns, the special education coordinator said that it wouldn't be a problem to line up special transportation for Cara. The bus will most likely stop in the same location as the preschool bus did and their will be an aide on the bus to help Cara into her seat. Caitlin will also be able to ride the bus with Cara, if she wants to do so. I do worry that Caitlin may be embarrassed to ride the special ed bus, but we will see how it goes. RIght now, Caitlin says she'd love to ride with Cara.

We have not found out whether Cara will be in morning or afternoon Kindergarten nor who her teacher will be. They still have to do staffing and wait until all new students to the district have registered. I have requested that Cara be kept in morning Kindergarten as that is what she's used to and it would be less of a disruption to the routine that Cara thrives on. Hopefully, her therapists and school personnel will take that into account when they make their decision.

All in all, I feel that Cara will be in good hands this coming school year and will be getting the services and help in the classroom that she needs to succeed. Cara, of course, is very excited to be going to "Sissy's school". It will be nice having both girls at the same school.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Wish all my momma readers a very Happy Mother's Day. I hope that you are enjoying your day and spending it with the ones you love.

I am one very spoiled and well-loved momma. My girls gave me fresh flowers, homemade cards, paper flowers and a vase. More importantly though, they showed me their love. I feel very blessed to be a mom to my two precious princesses & love them more than they will ever know.

Here are some pictures from the day so far:

Fresh flowers that Caitlin picked out for me. I've had those vases for years and this may be the first time they've had real flowers in them!

Paper flowers that Caitlin made in a vase made by Cara.

Front cover of the card Caitlin made for me at school.

Top Ten List. I love this!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


This morning, I'm off to register Cara for *gasp* Kindergarten! The day has finally come, I can't believe it. I'm hoping to get her into a particular teacher's class and into the morning session as that has been working well for us so far. Truth be told, I wish that Kindergarten was full day here, tuition-free, like I know it is in other areas, as I know Cara would benefit from a full day of instruction and therapy services. Our state passed a bill to make Kindergarten full day but, sadly, the school district lacks the money to make such bill as reality.

Here's hoping that by going first thing in the morning, I'll miss all the crowds and be able to get Cara in the class that I want. Having both girls, potentially, at the same school will be nice even though I know the transition to a new school will be hard on Cara. She has come to love her preschool teachers and therapists at her current school and Cara has never been one to adapt well to change. I know that the first week or two will be difficult for her, which is why finding the right teacher is so important to me. Thankfully, I was able to talk to several of them at a recent school function and got a good vibe from two, but one in particular. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Whiz Kid

This school year has been one of challenges for Caitlin, as well as Cara. For Caitlin (and I), the challenge has revolved around making sure that she is not bored in the classroom. When she started 1st Grade at Global Village Academy, I had a talk with her teacher and the principal about where Caitlin was academically and worked with them to develop a curriculum that would keep Caitlin interested and challenged throughout the year. Thankfully, the way that her teacher, at the time, had the classroom set up, Caitlin was able to work at a table with our peers who were at, or close to, her level. For example, she & a few other students would be working on math pages in the 2nd grade textbook while the rest of the class was working from the 1st grade book. Her teacher and his aide would walk around and make sure that everyone was on track and understanding what was being taught. It was a win-win situation for everyone and Caitlin really enjoyed and learned a lot that year.

Fast forward to last fall (start of 2nd grade) when we moved from Aurora to the Western Slope. I had all of Caitlin's records forwarded to her new public elementary school and talked with the secretary at registration to attempt to find the best fit for Caitlin at her school. She was placed into Mrs. W's class as the office staff felt that she would be a good fit.

Within the first week of school, Caitlin was coming home with simplistic homework, similar to what she had done in Kindergarten and was already telling me that she was bored. So, I decided that I needed to go and have a talk with her teacher. I came prepared with copies of Caitlin's portfolio from 1st grade as well as testing results done at the end of the last year school which showed Caitlin consistently in the 99% on most subjects or at the 4th grade level. Her teacher admitted to feeling a bit perplexed about how to deal with Caitlin as she was obviously more advanced than most of her classmates. Already, her teacher had observed Caitlin completing assignments (correctly & neatly) way before her peers and that she was helping them understand their work after she had finished her own. She was the teacher assistant in the class, basically.

So, knowing that the classroom work was too simple for her, I asked her teacher what could be done so that she doesn't lose interest in school and start acting out. Mrs. W explained that they have a co-teaching environment and that she was talking with this other teacher and trying to come up with a plan for Caitlin that would include special assignments and projects. This sounded good, at first, but I quickly realized that this wasn't going to work.

The problem with the plan that Mrs. W designed is that Caitlin only gets more advanced work or special projects when her teacher feels that the material being taught is something that Caitlin already knows. Most days, however, Mrs. W feels that Caitlin would benefit from participating in what the rest of the class is doing, which is, in most cases, something Caitlin already knows and has been taught once, if not, numerous times before.

Now, I'm not saying that repetition isn't a good thing and that there aren't some skills that Caitlin could use practice on (i.e. writing & grammar) but when I see the work that comes home, it saddens me because I can go into her portfolios from previous years and pull out identical worksheets. I just don't feel that Caitlin needs to relearn a skill, especially in math, that she's known for a couple of years now.

It is so hard to hear Caitlin say that she's bored or to see the obvious signs that she is not being challenged in the classroom like I hoped she would be. Her teacher seemed to understand that my oldest needs some special attention, some extra effort, in order to really succeed, and yet, I do not see much effort being made. I have talked to Mrs. W more times that I care to count and while she assures me that they are trying to adapt to Caitlin's needs, I see almost no evidence.

That being said, I've kind of given up on her teacher and the school for rest of this year. School lets out near the end of May, so Caitlin only has to get through another 6 weeks or so of school. I've just decided to supplement what she's not learning in the classroom with workbooks, websites and activities here at home. My little brainiac loves her BrainQuest workbooks and is also eager to learn new math skills or try new practical learning projects (i.e. following a recipe, planning a imaginary trip) or explore the world around her. National Geographic movies and books on historic events are currently a favorite. I am just letting her interests lead the way and am providing whatever resources I can to enlighten her.

Before school does let out for the summer, I plan on going in and talking to her principal as well as the Gift & Talented coordinator for her school. The Gifted & Talented program starts in 3rd grade by testing every student to see if they meet the requirements (the requirements usually are testing a grade level or above in a set number of subject areas) for the program. I want to be sure that Caitlin will be tested and accepted into the program. I also want to talk to her principal about possibly promoting Caitlin into 4th grade instead of 3rd for the fall as I feel that is where she is academically and while I sometimes wonder how she will fair socially, I have noticed lately that most of Caitlin's friends are also among the more advanced learners or are a year or two older than she is. So, I think she won't have any problems fitting in and making friends. It is my hope that the principal will agree that Caitlin needs to be promoted and work with me to make sure that the transition is smooth for everyone.

**I'm going to get on my soapbox for a moment, so please, bear with me.**

As most of my readers know, this struggle with Caitlin is nothing new. I am beginning to feel that if one happens to have a child who is an advanced learner, you are kind of thrown to the wolves and left to supplement your child's education on your own because the public schools can't be bothered because all of their money and resources are being spent on those that are not at grade level. Don't get me wrong, I have a child who is on an IEP and receives services to help her, so I'm not knocking special education or the legislation designed to help those students, I'm simply saying that there should be more resources on BOTH side of the spectrum. If your child needs special education services to help him/her make the most of his/her education, those services should be there...whether they are below, at or above their assigned grade level.

I find it frustrating that their are no services for students who are advanced until they are in the grade. So, if your child is working above her current grade level, you really only have two choices--to advance your child to the next grade or to put up with it. Teachers are overwhelmed, I know, trying to teach to a classroom of students at various levels, with various barriers to learning. This is why I believe that more services, for all students, should be available. No child should be left behind or not given the chance to shine & advance. Potential should not be missed or cast aside nor should a cry for help go unanswered.

Test results show that the United States is way behind our Eastern neighbors in many of the fundamental subject areas and it's no wonder--if all of our resources and energy are going towards the mainstream and neglecting the rest. I truly believe that, in most cases, we are not nudging our children enough, that the curriculum is not challenging them to think in different ways or adapting to the ever-changing knowledge base of the world. If we don't equip our children with the skills that they need to succeed, we are letting them down as they are our future!


That being said, I am not going to stop fighting to get Caitlin the level of instruction that she needs so that she is enjoying school and wanting to go every day. Just like I will not stop fighting for Cara to get the services and support she needs to reach her potential in the classroom. I continue to fight a two front war but it's a war that is worth fighting.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ready or not...

I cannot wrap my head around the fact that I will be registering Cara for Kindergarten in less than a month, and that she will be 5 in July! I blinked and she went from an infant to a confident preschooler.

She does love going to pre-K and absolutely loves her teachers and therapists there. Her classmates have taken Cara under their wing and are protective of her and understanding of her disabilities.

As we move forward to making plans for Kindergarten, I am amazed at all of the progress that Cara has made in one school year (that's not even over yet)---
*She is using a low-tech communication device like this one to help her communicate her needs in the classroom and to help her participate in activities.
*Her vocabulary has shot through the roof. Cara can say many simple words [hi, bye bye, uh-oh, Momma, Papa] and approximations of lots of other words--so close that everyone close to her knows what she's trying to say. Her efforts to communicate verbally have increased exponentially, which has been so very encouraging. Cara has such of a cute voice and we know she has lots to say.
*She is beginning to grasp some of the fundamental learning concepts necessary for Kindergarten [knows a few colors, letters C & M, knows animals and animal sounds, can copy lines (straight, squiggle, zig zag), is coloring much more precisely and with more imagination than before, can imitate basic clapping patterns]
*There is no doubt that Cara is socially ready for Kindergarten. She loves going to school and being around her classmates and thrives off of the routines that school offers. She is a very social little girl and her sunny personality makes others warm up to her.
*Her gross & fine motor skills are improving [she can run, hop, jump and gallop, kick a ball, throw a ball, hold a pencil appropriately and sometimes successfully cut with scissors].
*More focus has been put into increasing Cara's sign language vocabulary both at home and at school. The Deaf & Hard of Hearing coordinator has been working with Cara's teachers and myself to supply materials and teach new signs in an effort to help Cara have a voice, both through ASL and verbally.

I recently met with Cara's team of teachers & therapist to discuss her transition into Kindergarten. While we all we amazed at how far she'd come since the IEP implementation meeting before school started, everyone voiced concerns regarding Cara's readiness for Kindergarten. Cara is still functioning, developmentally, at about a 2 1/2 to a 3 year old level, though in some areas, she right on par. I stated that I wished we could hold her back another year or find an alternative (read: Montessori) program for Cara has I feel she would benefit from another year of preschool instructions so that she would have a chance and firmly grasping all of the emerging education skills that are taught. However, because Cara has had two years of public preschool, we have to transition her into Kindergarten, at least if we are going to keep her in public school. Since I lack the monetary funds to put her elsewhere, transition is only only viable option. Her teacher & therapist did agree, however, with the right support in and outside (read: therapy pull-out sessions) the classroom, they felt that Cara would continue to excel in Kindergarten. They felt that it was paramount that expectations be clearly outlined in Cara's IEP and that the services she would be receiving at their maximum levels (so that she is receiving the maximum amount of time per week allowed for each service).

Cara will be attending the same school as her big sister which is good for a couple of reasons---
1. Two kids @ one school will be so much easier to handle in terms of schedules
2. This school as the best Level III (able to meet the needs of the most severe special needs students) program in our school district

Cara's IEP outlines services from a physical & occupational therapist, speech therapist and special education teacher. In addition, Cara will receive the help of a paraprofessional in the classroom to help her with tasks during the day. Her therapists will work with Cara out of the classroom in both small group and individual sessions. There will be another implanmentation meeting before school starts in the fall to address how exactly Cara's needs will be met at the new school and to meet the therapists who will be working with her.

In addition to what the school will be providing, I will be continuing weekly speech therapy sessions provided through our local hospital's pediatric rehabilitation center. Cara has been seeing a therapist through this program for several months and I believe that the extra therapy has really helped her make the progress that she has.

Also, over the summer, I am going to intensify my work with Cara to help get her even more ready for the big step that she's going to be taking. I plan to focus on helping her learn her colors, shapes, ABC's and 123's. I have found some wonderful resources and tapped the brains of some great parents for suggestions. Hopefully, Cara will find the activities fun & educational.

One thing that I can promise is to be very involved with Cara's education. I want to be sure that she is happy and adjusted. I often worry about her getting teased or picked on because kids will see her as "different". I don't worry so much about her peers in Kindergarten, but more about the older kids. I know that education is going to be paramount and already am planning a simple presentation for her classroom to teach everyone about hydrocephalus and what it means to Cara.

Overall, I just want Cara to have a positive Kindergarten experience. I worry daily about how she will adjust since she does not deal well with change. I want her to love her teacher, her classmates and for her to look forward to going to school each day. I remember how much I loved my Kindergarten classroom and how my teacher remained a favorite as I progressed through elementary school. I think the foundation that is laid in Kindergarten is so important and helps to define a child's education. It is my sincere hope that Cara will have a wonderful year.

Out With the Old

I am the proud owner of a new MacBook after my faithful companion (also another MacBook, though not a unibody) decided to retire. Several months ago, I noticed that the wifi wasn't working as it should be and self-diagnosis revealed that the wireless card in the laptop had died. Fixing it seemed pointless as the part was expensive and then I had to find someone who would be willing to crack open a 6+ year old Mac to replace it. Apple wouldn't touch it because it was so old and neither would one of the repair shops in town.

At first, I looked around on eBay for a replacement but the idea of buying a computer, sight unseen, without a warranty scared me. So, I ended up browsing at Apple's site and feeling my pulse increase when I priced out a replacement laptop. Now, some may ask why I had to have another Mac and the answer is simple. Mac's are so solidly built, I never had any issues albeit the wireless card, and I love not having to worry about security. You couldn't get me to buy a PC. Anyway, so there I was, my very expensive fate before me on the computer screen. I was just about to bite the bullet and click "order" when I had a moment of brilliance. Apple has online chat available for customers to ask questions about products, so I clicked and talked to "Ryan" who told me about Apple's refurbished computers.

The computers are guaranteed by Apple for two years on top of the 3 year AppleCare warranty that I ended up purchasing. The laptop had been returned to the factory for some reason and repaired to Apple specifications. Essentially, a brand new laptop inside & out but over $150 cheaper! Score!

After calming down from excitement, I completed my order online and waited for Apple to send me confirmation. My new computer would arrive on my door step in about a week! I anxiously tracked it's route on FedEx's site and arrange for my mom to "house sit" (wait for the FedEx man) while I was at work.

I came home Monday night to find a white box waiting for me on my kitchen table. I feel in love as soon as the lid opened. The laptop was in pristine condition and smelled slightly like that new car smell that everyone loves.

Transferring my data from the deceased laptop to it's replacement was too of the many things that I love about Macs. It found my old hard drive via Bluetooth and went to work copying the files over. After an hour of updates and installs, my new laptop was fully functional and ready to go.

That night, I sat, for the first time in months, in my living room, talking to my best friend on GoogleTalk...loving the fact that I could be curled up in my favorite chair, sipping some tea while watching Netflix and video chatting, simultaneously! It's so good to be back--not to have to stand right next to the router--to be able to multi-task--to be able to go wireless. Once again, I'm spoiled.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pizza & A Movie Nights

We have a tradition around here. Once a week, or thereabouts depending on schedules, the girls & I have pizza & a movie nights. Sometimes, we order pizza from Papa Murphy's Take & Bake and sometimes, we make our own. The girls love to be little chefs in creating their own pizza pies so, we've been doing that lately. While the pizzas are a-baking, we'll curl up in the big red chair and start the movie. Sometimes, we play board games or Wii instead of watching a movie, sometimes, we read books. The constant, central theme is that we spend time together...momma & her girls. All three of us look forward to these nights and wish they were more frequent.

On the marque for tonight is: Alvin & The Chimpmucks-The Squeakquel. Please excuse me, I'm off to preheat the oven and chop up cherry tomatoes and basil.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Welcome to (Single) Parenthood

Upon saying vows and exchanging rings, no one envisions the day when the marriage ends. When parents meet their children for the first time and fall instantly in love, no one thinks that they may be a single parent one day.

No one plans for, or wants things like divorce or single parenthood to happen, and yet, despite our best intentions, they do.

When Ben & I mutually decided to end our marriage last year, I knew that life as I'd known it for the past 10 years was going to drastically change. What I didn't realize was just how much of an impact those changes were going to have.

I've always prided myself on being one who adapted well to change. If I can plan for it, I deal quite well. However, the dissolution of my marriage threw me into totally uncharted waters. When the day came for my daughters and I to pack up our home and move 5 hours away, it seemed, that I had everything together. Boxes were packed and marked with their contents, the moving van had been reserved. But, truth be told, I was just going through the motions, putting one foot in front of the other. I focused on the things that I did have control over and never more than a few hours ahead.

When we had safely arrived back in my "hometown", I allowed myself time to adjust to my new surroundings and mourn the loss of my marriage, my friends, my way of life. The reality and finality of the choices I had made a few days or weeks earlier hadn't sunk in.

I mean, here I was, a new single parent of two young children. I was starting over at 32 years old. I had to re-establish myself in the working world after having been a stay-at-home mom for 4 years. I needed to find a new home for my children. We needed to establish new routines, a new sense of normal.

Having no other choice, I pulled myself up by the boot-straps and embraced this new-found reality. Within a month of having moved across the state, I had a new job and a new home. My daughters had started new schools and were making new friends. We were settling into new routines.

I struggle daily with how to be everything that my daughters need. Thankfully, they still have a very open & loving relationship with their father even though he is over a thousand miles away in a different state. I am also very thankful for the co-parenting relationship that Ben & I have when it comes to making decisions for our daughters. It is so great to have him in my corner. But, even with Ben, my parents, teachers and therapists helping, I still feel very much alone as I go about the daily tasks of raising my daughters to be great women in society. I struggle with finding the time to be an active participant in their lives. With a work schedule that is far less than ideal, I feel that we are almost like two ships passing in the sea. Whenever the girls see me put on my work clothes, they oldest saying how she wished I was home when they were and the youngest saying "NO!" and wrapping her adorable self around me. Saying that, "Mommy is doing this so that we can have the things that we need" only offers so much comfort. Everyone assures me that I'm a good mom, that the girls will understand one day and see the strength that I had and such...this, however, fails to console me on the worst days...the days when I barely see my children...the week that goes by without us sitting down to dinner together...the nights that pass without me tucking them in.

I try to cherish each and every moment that I have with my girls and make an effort to establish fun traditions for them. We have pizza & a movie nights, the girls each get "Mommy & Daughter Time" once every few months, we play Barbies, board games or Wii. It is my sincere hope that these will be the times that they remember and not the school functions that I couldn't attend orthe field trips I couldn't chaperone.

Oh, how the guilt eats away at me. I have a severe (and maybe permanent) case of the "would've, could've, should've". Pity parties are also common. How I didn't want this for myself or my children, that it's not fair that I'm doing this alone and struggling so much. Some days, I wish I could throw in the towel but I know this isn't an option.

At this point, all that I can do is attempt to move forward. To know that much living lives ahead and that things can only improve. While I feel stuck with how life is now, I also know that I am empowered to change things, I just need to decide what I want and how I'm going to get it. I will be honest and say that sometimes, that's too much of a concept for me to wrap my head around. Most days, I'm simply in survival mode.

I do know, however, that I want the best possible life for my daughters and that I will stop at nothing to make sure that it materializes. I want to be there for them and for them to feel that I was an active part of their lives, I want us to do things together, to make lasting memories, to laugh, cry, argue and hug. I just want us to "be".

When my daughters are grown and have lives of their own, I want them to look back and know that their mother loved them, that she overcame the odds and made a great life for herself and her children. I want them to be happy and well-adjusted.

While single parenthood was never among my long-term goals, I have learned to embrace my new role and continue to do my best for my children as they are my reason for living, for breathing.


Well, I'm thinking about picking this blog up again, 8 months after my last post. I'm wondering though, will anyone bother to read it? Never have I had a huge following nor anything inspiring or truly news-worthy to say. The blog has been, for the most part, a way for me to chronicle the lives of my children and the major happenings of our family. The last 8 months have brought about a lot of changes for my family, most of which have been hard to adjust to. But, being the resilient type that we are, we have coped and are moving on. Our days now are pretty routine and predictable as everyone is doing well and nothing catastrophic has happened for quite some time.

So, all that being begs the question...should I even bother?


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