Monday, July 25, 2011

On Vacation

We are down in sunny Florida and having a great time. It is hot but not as bad as NYC was last week and we had a blast at the pool today.
As part of this vacation I have decided to disconnect a bit, from the phone, internet and blogs. I left my cell phone at the house for most of the day today and it was oddly liberating. I am not completely disconnecting this week, although I am sure it would be a great experience.  Perhaps for another time. But I am definitely taking it easy on the technology front, which is why you may not hear from me until we get back home next week. So long!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

So yesterday was my 28th birthday. At times I feel ridiculously young, others I can't believe I am already so "old," slowly but surely inching towards the end of my twenties.
I celebrated by going to my favorite yoga class in the morning and out to dinner with my husband in the evening. And trying to stay indoors most of the day and out of the sun!
It has been a busy year and I have much to be grateful for. We also have many exciting things coming up this coming year, among them a trip to Israel in August, my "baby" M starting preschool in September, as well as the arrival of a new baby at the end of November!
I felt kind of superstitious announcing my pregnancy on the Internet, but on the other hand it is such an important part of my day to day life these days that it is hard not to talk about it.
I have had a fairly easy pregnancy. The first three months I was nauseous and miserable. This coincided perfectly with cleaning and cooking for Pessach. It was truly a challenge to keep moving and cleaning when all I wanted to do was sleep and to cook yet more chicken when the sight and smell of it made me sick. But we got through it, and had a nice time.
Towards the end of May, I started feeling better although I still can't eat chicken or ground beef. I am not quite sure why, but I still can barely go near the stuff. I have been (over)compensating with a craving for, go figure, egg salad. The egg salad wraps at Seasons were my staple lunch when I was truly too sick to eat, although my repertoire has expanded a bit since then. My friend suggested that craving eggs was a way for my body to make up the protein I am not getting from poultry. Sounds plausible to me.
My energy level is still not at its normal level but I am doing my best to keep up with the kids and their needs. We shared our news with them but only A. really grasped the concept. I tried to explain to them that I cannot pick them up and that they cannot jump on me, but they need a lot of reminders :)
The crazy heat here is definitely not helping matters in terms of stamina. I try to take M out to the park in the morning before it gets too hot, but then we spend the rest of the day indoors. I am just hoping this humidity and excessive heat breaks the moment it is really not manageable.
We are leaving to Florida on Sunday for a week. I am sure if will be hot there too but it can't be worse than here! Also looking forward to some pool time to cool off!
Wishing everyone a wonderful shabbos and hope you stay cool and near the air conditioning!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Style Down Syndrome?

I have observed a trend in the media recently. A celebrity, politician or journalist will write or say something offensive to a specific demographic causing people to complain and then the person will promptly issue a hasty apology and retraction, saying they did not mean it or did not realize this could be hurtful.
Consider this- an article in recent GQ magazine laments the apparent lack of style in Boston. Apparently, one can generalize and condemn an entire city for being, horror of horrors, un-hip. Be that as it may, the way Boston was described, made people take notice of this article. The author writes: "Boston suffers from a kind of Style Down Syndrome , where a little extra ends up ruining everything.”
While the magazine may have thought they were really clever for coming up with this new term, others were not amused. Brian Skotko, a physician at Boston Children's Article and brother to a young woman with Down Syndrome wrote a great blog post entitled Mock my Pants, Not my Sister. In the post, he takes the journalist to task and writes: "Let me explain what “Style Down Syndrome” really is. “Style Down Syndrome” is smiling when everyone else prefers to frown. It’s spending three summers, in sheer determination, learning to ride a bike because you want the freedom to be like everyone else. It’s singing tunes from Grease at the top of your lungs with your friends. It’s celebrating a third-place victory at a swim meet with as much gusto as the gold medalist."
Skotko also asks that instead of perpetuating stereotypes, GQ use this as a teachable moment and instead show what Down Syndrome is really like by highlighting the My Great Story Campaign on the National Down Syndrome Society's webpage. This is a compilation of the successes of individuals with Down Syndrome and definitely worth a look
This blog post went viral, along with other similar complaints, and what do you know, a few days later GQ issued this apology:
"We received your letter and absolutely understand that we have caused many of readers and their loved ones pain. Hurting anyone’s feelings or being disrespectful or cruel was certainly never our intent, but your letter helped us understand how poorly chosen our words were. What we initially posted was insensitive and ill-informed, and we’ve removed the offensive language from the website. We deeply regret our error in judgment. There is no excuse. We are both very sorry."
Sean Fennessey, editor,
John B. Thompson, writer,"
While it's all nice and good for them to apologize, I do have to wonder how sincere this statement is. The fact that these words were written  to begin with and approved by an editor (meaning it was not just a quick slip of the tongue), shows that many people still have pre-conceived notions and stereotypes about individuals with intellectual disabilities. Are a few complaints and blog posts really going to make a difference and make these people now see a person with Down Syndrome in a different light? On the other hand, how can one be silent and NOT say something?
I am still mulling this over- what do you think? Do complaints and calls for change make a real difference? It seems that often we are preaching to the choir, to the ones who are already convinced, while the ones who need to learn are for the most part unaffected.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Being Calm in Different Scenarios

We have had a busy weekend, which included a trip to the ER for Y on Thursday night as well as the shades in my living room coming crashing down on Friday afternoon.
Y was feeling fine all Thursday and then woke up around 11 15 pm with heavy croup and difficulty breathing. When the usual tricks- steaming up the bathroom- didn't really work, our neighbor who is an EMT called us an ambulance and off we went to the pediatric ER.
Riding in an ambulance was a first for me and even though Y seemed very out ot it at the time, he clearly was aware of what was going on. He keeps talking about the fire truck and asking when he can ride it again :)
The EMTs gave him oxygen and saline on the ride over so by the time we got to the hospital, he was feeling much better and his breathing had returned to normal. The doctor there still gave him a dose of steroids to be sure, because croup usually takes a few days to get out of one's system and she did not want him to have another episode. Since then he has been coughing a bit, but otherwise acting pretty normal. It is amazing how kids bounce back. By the time we left the hospital at close to 2 am, he was in a great mood, chattering incessantly and wide awake.
What struck me about the whole incident is that I was able to stay very calm throughout. I matter of factly tried to help him breathe in the shower, packed our bag with snacks, reading material and insurance information and tried to keep Y comfortable in the ambulance when he was getting agitated because of the oxygen mask. I am not really trying to toot my own horn here, it is just good for me to know that I can stay on top of things in times of crisis.
I have a much harder time, however, staying calm when the crisis is not medical rather instigated by one of our children. On Friday afternoon, the kids were a bit wound up and I was trying to get everyone to lower the volume and play a bit more gently. All of a sudden there was a very large crash. I did not really see exactly what happened but I did see the vertical blinds lying on the floor of our living room, along with the six foot pole they are usually suspended from. A. was standing right next to them and looking quite shocked.
Thank goodness noone got hurt, but I was very upset and not very calm. A. had clearly yanked on the blinds one too many times. And I needed her to understand how dangerous and unacceptable her behavior was. I realized that I was not in a good place and could not discipline her without anger, so I left it to my husband. I guess we each have our own strenghts and he is better at keeping a cool head in situations like this whereas the medical stuff is more my forte...
The blinds are still sitting on the floor, because I could not get anyone to come fix them over the weekend. The children also managed to decorate them with yogurt but that is a story for a different time. The lesson of the weekend is maybe that parenting is challenging in many different ways and you never know what life is going to throw at you.
On a semi-related note, The Feminist Breeder has an interesting post on parenting/discipline and how other people judge us unfavorably most of the time.  I actually  related to a lot of what she was saying. If you have a minute, read her thoughts. I would be curious to know if you agree with her.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

iPad update and links

While it seems I spent a lot of this week, taking my kids to camp, therapy sessions, school and back, I also managed to make some headway with the iPad. I figured I would share the information and links I found, in case it helps others.
First of all I ordered the heavy-duty protection cover. Its made by a company called Otterbox and the specific model is called the iPad 2 Defender Series Case. The price quoted on the company's site was a bit steep but I managed to find a new one for almost half price on eBay. It arrived today. It took a few minutes to figure out how to put it on, but I do feel much better about the kids handling the iPad now. I am still only letting them use it with supervision though.
I also found some great websites that have lists of special needs and other educational apps. The Friendship Circle Blog has a whole series of posts on the iPad, highlighting different categories of apps such as communication, life skills or social skills, giving information about funding for iPads as well as listing ten other great websites that offer information about apps. If you are seriously considering buying an iPad, I highly recommend checking out their site.
Beineinu, another great special needs organization run by a friend of mine, also has a list of apps as well as recommendations for other websites.
All the information can be a bit overwhelming. I decided at first to stick to apps that are free and see how Y does with them before spending even more money. There seem to be many free apps online, although many do offer an upgrade to a more comprehensive app- for a fee of course.
I will say that I had to wait somewhere with Y this week for over a half hour, and we spent the time working on letters, numbers and sight words. He had fun, it passed the time and he learned something.
 I also uploaded some social stories about day to day activities- going to the supermarket, park, etc. that I am hoping to review with him as well as a behavioral reward chart that I want to use for motivational purpose and behavior modification.
The Friendship Circle blog writes how when the iPad first came out, people were speculating about all its different uses, but noone, especially not Steve Jobs, could have forseen what a boon the iPad would be to the special needs community, especially in the realm of augmentative communication.  They also write how they are sure many great apps are yet to come...I will keep you posted as I become more educated.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The iPad has arrived

So after weeks of talking about getting an iPad, I actually took a trip down to the intimidating apple store and came home with a brand new iPad2. I have to admit it's pretty embarressing how apple illiterate I am. I've never owned an iPod, iPhone or i anything.
The salesperson was very patient and understanding and I have been having fun today trying to figure everything out today, downloading some apps and getting a feel for it.
The primary reason we got the iPad is for Y, because there are lots of great educational and communication apps to be had (special thanks to my parents and in-laws for partially funding this purchase). Y actually had one in his classroom this year so he is familiar with it. I need to do some more research to find the right programs. I know there are lists online so will probably spending some time this week figuring out what makes sense to add, especially because not all the apps are free.
I also want to get a good cover to protect our new investment. The sales person told me about an iPad cover so durable, "they can play basketball with it". Knowing my kids, that sounds like the kind of protection we are going to need :) If anyone has an iPad, I'd be happy to hear your impressions/feedback/app recommendations.
Y also had his first day of summer school today and other than having a hard time seperating he seems to have had a good day. I am not 100 percent sold on the program he is attending, but am open to changing my mind. I guess we will see how the rest of the week goes.

Friday, July 8, 2011

It's Shabbos Now

It has been another busy, humid week here in NY and I am looking forward to some R &R on shabbos. This week I spent way too much time in different NYC public schools, trying to figure out a summer placement for Y. I learned about some different Manhattan neighborhoods in the process and that the A train runs express from 59th street to 125th.
We also have had lots of naked tushies in our apartment, as the kids have become enamored with running around sans clothing. Maybe it's the heat or just general kids behavior. Trying to convince three different children to get dressed again is harder than you think :)
Wishing everyone a peaceful and less humid shabbos. Enjoy the video...I'm really into 8th Day. Getting their CD is on my to-do list.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Bedtime Mayhem

One thing the kids and I both thrive on is schedules and structure. I think it's great for kids (and their mommies) to know the routine of the day, what happens when and what is expected of them.
And most of the time this works out very well for our family. The only issue is that every once in a while, something shifts and then the old schedule no longer works. This requires a little bit of shuffling and reorganizing, some kind of growing pains, until a new routine is created.
At the moment, we are struggling with our bedtime routine. Until recently, bedtime was at 7 which meant they usually got into bed around 6 40 and were sleeping most nights by 7 15 or so.
I don't know if it's because school is out or there is something in the water, but that is totally not happening at the moment. M is in the weird in-between stage of phasing out his naps. The days he does not nap at all, he goes to bed at 6 30. On days when he falls asleep late in the afternoon and is then woken up, he is cranky for the rest of the day and unable to fall asleep till past 8 30.
Additionally, Y and A have been lobbying for a later bedtime. Even when I make them get into bed around 7, they usually dont fall asleep till past 8. And Y has started a lovely habit of waking up at 6 or 6 30 am every morning. It is beyond me how they are not tired, especially after long days spent running around playgrounds in the heat.
The one person who is tired is definitely me. After a long day of getting up early, taking kids to camp, playgrounds, errands, picking up from camp, making dinner, doing baths, and then struggling to have the kids stay in their beds, let alone fall asleep, I am totally worn out by the time that everyone is actually sleeping. I usually force myself to do some basic clean up- dishes, picking up toys, laundry and try to get to bed as soon as I can. Which means I no longer have my nights to write, knit, cook, prepare for the next day, take care of bills, etc.
As I said, I am hoping it is just a phase and we will get to a better place. But I am also realizing that as the kids get older, 7 pm is no longer a realistic bedtime, which means I will also need to adjust my expectations for things I want to get done at night. For now I am just hoping that this too shall pass...I will keep you posted.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Is Shyness a Disorder?

Last week's NY Times Sunday section had an interesting article on shyness.
The author comments on society's emphasis on outgoing, loud people and the growing diagnosis of social anxiety disorder, a disorder described as a person being uncomfortable in most social situations to the extent that it negatively impacts their life.
Susan Cain, the author, then goes on to explain that being shy is not a disorder, and not only negative. There are many positive aspects to being a bit more withdrawn, from the ability to be a good listener to being more perceptive. Introverts pick up on more information and details because they are not as busy "doing" so they have the ability to sit and observe.
Many leaders and creative personalities are introverts and their temperament may be part of what brought them to success. Cain's main point was that while social anxiety disorder certainly exists, not every person who is shy has this disorder, and that being more quiet should not be viewed as an "illness".
I very much related to this article, because I definitely fall more into the introverted/shy personality range. I am often more comfortable expressing my thoughts in writing rather than through speaking, hence this blog :)
I have often felt that shyness is viewed by people as a "bad" thing and that being a social butterfly is what society values. There have been times when I was not hired as a doula, because I wasn't engaging, loud or outgoing enough at the interviews. I think it is a shame, because people do not get a chance to meet the "real me" in that short timeframe.
Still, we live in a mostly extroverted world and I do think that in order to succeed in certain realms, us introverts need to learn to adapt a bit. But I agree with Cain that this "adaptation" has to be done in a way that reduces the negative slant towards shyness and celebrates the many positive aspects that come with it.
Have you read the article? What do you think?