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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