Learning to walk the tightrope of motherhood...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It is TOO SOON to think about kindergarten...

So, I'm having an internal conflict about a student in my class. This child has been a slight challenge for the past week and a half, and it's not his fault. He has some special needs which are being addressed by an IEP right away and his mother is advocating for him to attend a special program in the district, which, I think, can meet his needs better than I can. But I struggle because I wonder if my daughter will be in his shoes in a few years.
One of our major wishes for Mer right now is to be included in traditional classes as much as possible. Of course, we have very little to base these wishes and hopes on, other than being fairly strong believers in the idea that EVERYONE in a class benefits from the diversity that public education offers. We have no idea what her academic and behavioral strengths will be...and so I need to keep that in mind before I borrow worry. But that's easier said than done...
IEP meetings these days fill me with questions, more personal than professional. I start thinking about Mer. I wonder if she will be able to keep up with her peers behaviorally, not to mention academically. I wonder what services she'll be eligible for. I wonder if we will be able to successfully advocate for an instructional assistant for her and if that would be enough of a support to make her successful in a traditional kindergarten placement.
I also wonder how much of a PITA (pain in the @$$) parent I'm about to become...
I already find myself speaking up more in meetings about students than I have in the past. I worry more about whether parents are understanding all of the information that is being shared with them and if they know what options might be available for their child. I imagine myself sitting in "that chair" at a meeting in the not too distant future, having professionals share their assessments of my child with me, sharing information I already am aware of, but that is still not easy to hear. I hear the "discussion" I fear we will have, pushing for my daughter to receive instruction in the classroom, with her peers, differentiated to meet her needs.
I know we will ask a lot her teachers and the staff at whatever school she may attend in the future. How do I ask this of them, though, when I don't know that I am equipped to handle the child that is in my class now?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sweet surprises...

I got such a nice surprise today when I walked into the little storage closet where I pump--another mom who also uses that room, had left me a card, congratulating me on (almost!) finishing my first week as a working mom and teacher. And it was just the little boost that I needed!
Wednesday was a rough day. It began with some crazy dreams the night before which made me feel like I was always running late picking up Mer from daycare and enhanced the feeling that I'm not getting to spend enough time with her in the evenings. I then had a rough day keeping up with my kiddos, felt incredibly behind in planning and unavailable to meet with my teammates, and capped it all off by yelling at my students in the hallway while trying to get them on to the bus IN FRONT OF one of their parents.
I was at such a place that when my husband called an suggested we go to a wine-tasting in the evening, I burst into tears instead of responding with a more typical "Cheers!"
So, today was better. I kept my voice down to a dull roar during bus dismissal. I have a planning meeting scheduled with some of my team at starbucks for tomorrow. I got a good-morning-hang-in-there hug from a co-worker. I got the aforementioned card. And, I even left work on time to pick up Mer.
But what topped it all off was that MY BABY LAUGHED this afternoon! Really truly giggled---several times---all because of her mommy's kisses!
These are the small miracles in life and the way God (or the diety of your choice) supports you when you need it the most. I am grateful!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Movin' on Up...

The great clothes switch--completed!
So, it's only the second time we've had to do this, but I have had such mixed emotions each time. Today I moved Mer's 0-3 month clothes out of her dresser and put in her 3-6 month clothes.
On one hand, this is very exciting! At 4 1/2 months, Mer is starting to fit into the next size of clothing, which really isn't that far behind schedule, especially since she took so long to start gaining weight originally. She also has some REALLY cute and summery clothes at the 3-6 months size that I am anxious for her to be able to wear while the weather is still good.
On the other hand, I'm a bit sad. My little girl is growing up and getting bigger every day and this is just more proof of that. She's holding her head up longer and longer and getting more and more stable sitting with support. She's chatting away and smiling a great big smile when she sees her mom and dad. I can't believe my little baby is learning and doing so much! Sometimes I want to rush her toward milestones and push her into learning new skills. But she will never be a newborn, snuggled sound asleep in my arms, again. This makes me realize how important it is to enjoy every day and every stage.
Tomorrow marks the first day of school and I know that there are lots of parents in our community who are going through the same emotional battle. Their kiddos are getting ready to go to kindergarten, and they are filled with a combination of pride and wistfulness. This must be a constant battle in parenthood...always proud of your child for their accomplishments, successes, and forward growth...always wishing you could hold them again like you did the day they were born. For the first time, I think I am beginning to understand...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Red Rubber Ball

Today was our first PT appointment, with C, who we met two weeks ago for the PT assessment. The assessment showed that Mer, who was then about 3 1/2 months old, was doing gross-motor skills at about a 2 month old level. Based on that assessment, we have been working especially hard on her head control and on reaching for things above her chest while she's laying flat on her back...and I think it showed today.
It took Mer a little while to get warmed up and focused as she was very interested in checking out this new person in her house. Then, she did slowly start reaching for toys dangling up above her though and did pretty well. (We knew she could--she's been reaching for her feet like crazy lately and loves some new jingly dangles that hang from her play-gym.) This is such a simple looking skill, but its apparently quite difficult because she has to overcome the force of gravity to lift her arms up off the ground.
We also worked on the beginning steps of rolling over from back to belly. C is really good at explaining how we're going to build up to these major skills from some basic foundations. First we learned how to encourage Mer to turn her head to the side to look at a toy. Then, while she's looking in that direction, we can choose to support either her hip or her shoulder and turn it in that direction. If the toy or object she's looking at is motivating to her, such as a mirror, then she will probably bring the other body part in that direction so that she can reach the object. By rotating which body part we support, she will strengthen them both and eventually be able to to roll on to her side on her own.
The red rubber ball that C brought with her was definitely the highlight of the visit though. C showed us how to put Mer on her belly on the ball. We can help her prop herself up and lift her head (like she does on her belly on the floor). Then, we can slowly move the ball from side to side or back to front. We'll know that she is working because her body is staying fairly well balanced, compensating for the motion of the ball, and not just sliding off.
One of the interesting things about having a specialist to work with your child is, well, exactly that. We have someone we can, and I guess should, consult with on the progress Meredith is making and the best way to continue to encourage her. This also can sometimes seem like someone you need to check with before you do something asking your parents' permission to have a cookie. For example, we are SO excited about the little steps Mer is making toward sitting up, with support. We would love to let her spend some time in the Bumbo chair. However, when we asked last week, C encouraged us to wait a little bit until she is bigger and has more head control. This isn't to say that we haven't experimented a little on our own, but we felt a little naughty about it...kinda like stealing a cookie from the jar! Don't tell! :-)
The comforting thing that C reiterated to us today is the ABILITY that children with Down syndrome have. Even if she were not receiving physical therapy, Meredith would eventually learn to sit up and crawl and walk, just like typically developing children. However, therapy will not only help her learn these skills a little faster, but it should also help avoid bad habits that might let her accomplish these tasks but wouldn't strengthen and develop her muscles as she should. For example, she might learn to roll over by reaching for her feet and using the weight of her body to flip onto her side. However, this wouldn't strengthen her abdominal and hip muscles like she would otherwise...and we want to have those muscles strong so that she can use them for other skills in the future.
So, now we will have some fun playing ball this week and working on rolling to the side...and we'll try to take a picture of Meredith exercising on the ball and get it up here soon!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Crazy Week

Well, it's August, and that officially means that the start of the school year is right around the corner. I've enjoyed my nice extra-long maternity leave (thank you summer vacation!) but now I'm face-to-face with going back to work full time and sending Mer to daycare. But before we get to that, we have an echo-cardiogram, a 4 month well-baby visit, our first physical therapy session and genetic counseling to get through.
Today was the echo-cardiogram, which went well. The doctor essentially told us he doesn't want to see us again--her heart is fine. We are lucky--about 50% of children with Down syndrome have heart issues, but, despite a calcium deposit in her heart that was spotted prenatally at her 20 week ultrasound, everything is fine now!
A more fun visit was her 4-month well-baby visit. It has become clear, through Mer's frequent weight-checks at the office, that she is one of the nurses' favorite patients--and who could blame them?! The staff at our doctor's office ooh's and awww's over Meredith every time she comes in. And, just as importantly, they've held their breaths with me every time we've put her on the scale over the past few months and cheered with every ounce she's gained. (More about that another night.) But today she checked in at 10 lbs 8 oz (a significant gain over last week) and 23 1/2 inches long. This puts her at about the 50th percentile for weight and above the 75th percentile for length. If you're looking this and thinking this sounds small for those percentiles, you're right...children with Down syndrome have a different growth chart that they get tracked on, as they probably will grow a little slower and ultimately be a little smaller than a typically developing child. (The average adult height for a woman with Down syndrome is under 5-foot tall.) The doctor is also fairly impressed with how active and squirmy Mer is--she loves the crinkly paper on the examining tables and wrinkles it all up as she moves about. Of course, there were immunizations to be given at the end, but Meredith took them like a pro and only cried for a minute and has been fine the rest of the evening. What a champ!
PT starts on Thursday and we can't wait!
In the meantime, school duties start to call--we're gathering a group of student to go see a play on Saturday (a rounding experience for them and extra pay for me!). Also, it's time to start planning for the first few weeks of school with a new teacher on my team. As long as Mer is allowed to tag along, getting ready for back to school isn't so bad...I'm lucky to love my job. We'll handle separation anxiety next week...