Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So long 2013

You know you are getting older when the year disappears faster than Miley Cyrus's underwear. Seriously I do not know how time moved so fast between sitting on Jen's couch on New Year's Eve to driving to Florida for Thanksgiving. Let alone how fast Jolly St. Nick sent his free-loading elf to visit.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Joy's 2013 wrap up

Joy has invited all of us to join her in wrapping up the year that was. She even provided the prompts, because she is so sweet and helpful.

Joy @ i can say mama: 2013 Wrap up


Friday, December 27, 2013

A year of thankful

I haven't played with Lizzi in a while. Not that I haven't been thankful, just been to busy to give Thanks. I am sure I'm not the only one! To suck up show how thankful I am here I am breaking the rules (go figure) and doing 12 things of thankful. One for every month of 2013 I survived. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Eve!

I was thinking of ways I can add more tradition to our Christmas. Not make is to much about the Elf. My friend Joy is from Germany and of course follows that Country's traditions. Which, by the way do not include putting a pickle in your tree. So I thought let’s look at Ireland. But messed up and hit the link for Italy. Now, I know my mind is warped, but this struck me as beyond funny:

Monday, December 23, 2013

We are still okay...

Boo has had to undergo neurological/psychiatric testing over the past two weeks. There hasn't been any issues, other than her turning five. In our state (for insurance purposes, I believe) once you turn the ripe old age of five you are no longer allowed to be undiagnosed and/or globally delayed.

Boo had to go twice, for two hours each day, to meet with a psychologist for a battery of tests. (I think battery is a strong word, she didn't hurt Boo). The tests varied from intelligence/cognitive testing to behavioral/autism to play skills. Part of me wanted Boo to bomb the testing, securing her services. The good mom in me wanted her to excel.

Typical Boo she did a little of both and managed to frustrate the doctor. I wish I could have Kristi's artistic talent to demonstrate the following (I tried, I failed, I didn't want to hurt your eyes):

Doctor: Boo stack the blocks like this (imagine, two next to each other and one on top)
Boo: (hands the doctor the blocks after banging them for a minute)

Doctor: Can Boo climb onto and out of an adult chair?
Boo: Moves said chair next to exam table, proceeds to climb on top of chair, to table, to window sill in an attempt to get out of the room. We happen to be on the 10th floor and very thankful the windows don't open.

I'm impressed that Boo realized she had to do something with both the blocks and the chair. The doctor is distressed that she cannot follow direction.

At the end of the two days the doctor asked us if we had any questions. I ask her how she feels Boo did. She had previously thrown out words: autism, PPD-NOS, mentally disabled, intellectually disabled, ADHD and a bunch of other terms. Her response:

I have to score the tests.

Hm...now those that know me know that I tend not to be brushed off. I (politely, I swear) reminded the woman that she was an experienced professional who must have some instinct to how Boo had tested.

After a moment or two she told us that she honestly didn't know. That she wanted to show the test results and video to not only Boo's neurologist (whom I adore and trust) along with other colleagues. How Boo performed was baffling:

She shows signs of Autism: Will not look the doctor in the eye.

She shows signs that a child with Autism wont: She told the doctor to "look" and sought her attention.

Autism: Hand flapping, quickly distracted, would not follow directions, toe walking
Not: Social, engaging with materials, attempts to please, would put heals down when prompted by cue

Autism: lack of safety awareness
Not: asked for help when trying to get down off the exam table


Intellectually disabled: Cannot copy a "t" on the paper
Not intellectually disabled: can hold a pencil in the correct grasp

ID: Cannot follow a two-step direction
Not: Knew she needed a pencil to draw on paper

ID: Poor motor planning
Not: Pushed chair to get to top of exam table

The examples go on and on. In the end the doctor said at this point Boo is a Medical Enigma.

Where have I heard that before?


She will convene a team (about damn time) to look over everything. She agrees (as do neurology and genetics) that whatever is going on is neurological in origin. In the end it doesn't really matter what "term" they give Boo. I think Bridgetitis is a lovely term. We will continue to advocate, get therapies that work and love her the same with or without a medical diagnosis.

At five years old, she remains undiagnosed and we are still okay with that.




Friday, December 20, 2013

Best party of the year

Not to insult my other friends, but each year there is one party that I look forward to more than any other. The Sirens Christmas Party. While I see a lot of the woman throughout the year, this is the only night where all of the fire department wives leave the brave fire fighters home with the sugared up lovely children and have a night out with wine, food, laughter and a Yankee Swap.

There are only two rules to our annual party: you have to be over 21 and you have to have some relationship to someone on the fire department at one point in your life. Oh and if you can bring a bottle of wine rule number 2 is easily forgotten!


Not all the wives make it every year, I believe this was one of the quieter years. However the veterans, we know this is the one party you want to attend. I know what you are thinking, a Yankee swap? Those are so boring or you end up with crap. But that is only if you don't follow the rules:


1. Only invite one person who will bring a crap gift (aka a candle), all other guests must be reliable to bring something one or more people will want to have in their home.
2. Count the number of people at the party (do this before the wine is open, trust me on this one).
3. Put numbers on tiny bits of paper and place in a hat/bowl/shoe.
4. Have everyone pick a number without looking at it, knowing that the host will probably end up with the first number or the last (this is important information, I hope you are paying attention)
5. You begin to pick gifts in the order of your number. So, number 1 you go first.
6. From that point on you either steal a persons gift (please do) or open an unwrapped one. This continues on until the last unwrapped gift is open. Then person #1
7. You can only steal an item once, so if you really want that chatski you have to begin to create an alliance. This is where the real fun begins.

For example, you really had the perfect gift and your arch nemeses stole it. You are no unable to resteal. BUT you have an alliance with 3 or more people. You have some one else steal for you, you then steal what they want. Working together, you make sure that you go home with the gift you want and not the buddah butter that Kate got stuck with!

In past years our swap has included: lobster, anything fire department related (yes, we are fools), beautiful jewelry, alcohol (the more children we have the less sought after this one is), home d├ęcor you would actually hang in your house and the ugliest nutcracker you have ever seen that has a stipulation that you have to bring it back the following year.

In our case, the Swap lasted just over 2 hours. We have had epic ones that lasted over three. Last night, one woman almost peed her pants, one fell off a chair and there was much shenanigans to make sure you didn't end up with the scratch tickets. Especially after they were all losers!

Happy Holiday Parties everyone, don't shudder at the thought of having a Yankee Swap. Just remember the rules: Wine, Friends and only one crap gift allowed! 


My fellow Sirens, I will see you next December. I am already on the look out for my contribution!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Move along Fat Man

Boo is not fond of Santa Claus. This year is a slight improvement over last year when every time she saw his picture she cried "I NO LIKE". At least now she will say her approximation of Santa Claus (anta) or call him ismiss. This past weekend our Church's youth group put on a Pancake with Santa event. Boo loves her pancakes and had been good not too bad didn't get thrown out of Mass (although the woman in the next to us was decidedly having un-Christian like thoughts about us).

How could this go wrong? All I had to do was take the girls into the hall and eat pancakes. We didn't have to go near Santa. Right? We are nicely eating our pancakes, Abby leaves for CCD and the it happened.


Now I ask you, those out there that are of sound mind and not those crazy ones that play with the Elf.....if you see a child sitting down showing absolutely NO interest in you, as you sit on your throne would you get up off the throne and walk over to them?

Would you continue to walk towards them as the child cowered and then tried to dive back into the womb? Would you then say, "Oh is she shy"?

I replied, "No she is terrified. Thank you (I do have some manners) but please move along".

He did and then continued to come back to our table (we were the only ones at this table). Not once, not twice but trice. Finally I gently asked had enough gave him the stare I use on Abby in Mass.  



Move along, fat man. Move along my look said. 

I told Abby this story after CCD. I thought I would have her support. After all she is always looking out for Boo. Her analysis:

Boo is NEVER getting on the good list.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

CHRISTMAS!!!

This week is dealer's choice in the mix lounge. Since last time I took that literally, Jen was quite clear: MAKE YOUR OWN DAMN MIX TAPE.

Boo loves Christmas music. It kind of strange really. But she can tell the difference between Christmas music and regular music. Thank goodness there is a radio station that has been playing Christmas music 24/7. The minute we hit the car I hear "more music". If it is anything but Christmas, she shouts "ismass".

I'm quite proud.


Since I am one of those freaks who hate Christmas shopping but loves the music this has not been an issue. I foresee the issue on December 26th when we enter the car and there is no 'more'.

Yet with playing the music 24/7 via Pandora and all Christmas all the time radio there are some songs that are just not played enough.




I don't know what it is about a Hippo for Christmas. It is Abby's favorite song and it hasn't been played once!!!!



I love this song by the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan. The harmony is simply beautiful.




This song, this ONE song I remember being Abby's age and this was my all-time favorite. There have been many renditions but no one beats Mr. Crosby.






Speaking of Mr. Crosby....What I love about this song is that Ziggy Stardust was on a television show with an icon. Who would have ever thought they would make such beautiful music? An icon did, that's who. By the way, I haven't heard this song ONCE this year.




I love Dan Fogelberg. His music was so beautiful and this song, well it speaks to how at this time of year you remember those who impacted your life.


Boo loves this song. Do you call a song a song when it doesn't have any words? Anyway, I think she likes it precisely because there are no words. The music itself transports her to a place of joy.

This list could be 100 songs long, so I will stop now! Thanks Jen for making me follow the rules.






Monday, December 16, 2013

I hate the Elf

Who thought up this freaking elf and decided to let Abby in on the awesomeness? I'd like to buy you an nice icicle up the butt. I blame the public school system and totally get why Sylvia homeschools.

What is up with all of you fools that play pranks with the elf? I have no idea what you are thinking! The Elf is here to make sure the kids behave. Why are you messing up your house, your kitchen? Why should the kids behave if the freaking elf doesn't?

I'm so confused.

I'm also in need of the name of whatever fool told Abby that if she wrote to the elf he would write back. EVERY FREAKING NIGHT! It's bad enough that I wake up in a cold sweat at 3am because I forgot to move the freaking thing. But to have to write a note on top of it all?

At 3 freaking AM?


Isn't there enough work in Santa's toy shop for the elves? Does he really need to outsource the naughty list to multiple elves?

Speaking of Santa. Since he is supposed to have brought the Elf to our house, why is it on a display right when you walk into the store? Thankfully my friend A had a quick response for that one:

Santa lets the store sell Elves you can touch so you won't touch the one he sent you.

Guess what Abby wants now? I told her that Max would be jealous if she brought in another elf. She bought it thank the Good Lord. Then she saw the made in China tag this fool forgot to cut off his butt.

I told her she had a Chinese elf. Just like she has a Chinese grandfather. She thinks she has his eyes so it's all good.

The grandfather's eyes, not the elf's.


Abby asked where Boo's elf was. I'm like uh? Apparently since Max arrived when Abby turned 5 she expected one to show up for Boo. I would like to buy an icicle up the butt for whatever parent bought their kids more than one elf! Are you not busy enough? Do you not have enough to worry about that you decided to complicate matters!  I told Abby that Santa knew her elf was smart enough to watch over both of them. She turned to Max and said:
 
Please don't report on Boo. She won't get any presents.



Great, now my kid is telling her elf to lie to Santa. I hate that Elf.





Friday, December 13, 2013

This holiday season I will...

This holiday season I will not be Clark Griswold. Seriously I have issues people. I want everything to be freaking perfect. I want the house decorated, the cookies made, the gifts wrapped and well bought.

I want peace, love and freaking harmony.

I want my Christmas cards done and mailed. Yes, I have done cards in the past and found them in the trunk in February.

I do not want to be in three months of debt for five minutes of present unwrapping.

So far I am having a pretty good start to the season.

My brother and I have donated to a charity rather than buying one another gifts.

I have ordered and addressed Christmas cards. I may mail them.

David is working overtime so I may keep that debt down.

Boo still hates Santa so I can say that she is on the naughty list and that's why she doesn't have anything to open (okay, not really).

The Christmas tree was only up a week this year before we got around to putting the ornaments on. The angel is still sitting next to it.

So this holiday season I will remember that Clark had a great vision: wanting to give his family the "Hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny (freaking) Kaye".

And I am okay with that!





Finish the Sentence Friday

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I stalk Stephanie Sprenger

Last New Year's Eve my friend Jenn and I were sitting in front of her fireplace trying to warm freezing our butts. She had an epiphany: Let's go someplace warm next Thanksgiving.

I learned long ago to listen when Jenn says...to do anything she tells you. Last week we drove from New England to Cape Coral, Florida for Thanksgiving.  Other than Abby puking in Jersey the drive was really uneventful. Easy even.

We drove through the night, stopping in Jacksonville FLA the next evening. We stayed at the Hyatt along the river front. It was quite beautiful but packed due to a conference. In the elevator (because we are rude and nosy) we listened to as the 20 odd people crammed in with us talked about music therapy.

Turns out we dropped right into a conference for Music Therapist. There were thousands of them. Stephanie at Mommy for Real happens to be a music therapist. I missed Blog-Her but she must be here, right? Right? I began stalking the hallways, the bar, the roof top pool. But no Stephanie.

Of course we found the one Irish bar within walking distance. She wasn't there either. But I found wine so it was all good. I also met some great people (in my hunt for Stephanie) because after a glass of wine and 20-odd hours in the car I am no longer shy. As we were the only ones in the bar that were not part of the conference we kind of stood out.

David started asking questions and telling them about Boo. They were so helpful, giving us websites in our area to check out.

While I never did find Stephanie I may have found one other way for Boo to spend her afternoons!



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I messed up...

I messed up the mix-tape. Again. Surprised? I had a great post about Christmas music. On my list I had a hippopotamus, a donkey and Adam Sandler. Then I read a tweet from Jen and realized I missed posting last week. So I scrapped my list and started over, hence the really rushed mix-tape: Addiction.

I could take the easy Robert Palmer way out but I am up to the challenge! Here are the songs that say I am addicted to you:



I was thinking if some one was actually stuck on me. Ewwww.



He was so brutally handsome she got addicted to the fast lane?




Look if Kenny was addicted to me, I would come over. Like RIGHT NOW.




Sir Elton knows plenty about addiction!

How about you, what song says you are addicted to love? Join me over at Jen's and link-up your mix tape.







Monday, December 9, 2013

27

Last New Year's Eve we were freezing our asses off in front of her fire place. She had this brilliant idea to go someplace warm for Thanksgiving. Eleven months later we were on our way. She was smart and flew down. Us? Well we were cheap.

Driving 27 hours in a car with your husband and two children leaves you 27 hours to amuse yourself with random thoughts and would be tweets if only I was talented enough to tweet and drive at the same time.

Hour 1 wow the girls are being so excellent. Why the hell did we pack so much crap?



Hour 2 no it is not time for a snack (husband)

Hour 3 thank goodness for rechargeable batteries and this doohickey thing that lets you recharge anything while driving



Hour 4 husband and girls asleep, I have control of the radio and not one person is talking to me

Hour 5 If Connecticut is in New England and therefore obligated to be a Boston sports fan why am I listening to the NY Rangers hockey game and not the Bruins?

Hour 6 New York  drivers are fruitcakes.

Hour 7 Dude from Maryland, when entering the NJ Turnpike and the sign says DO NOT SLOW DOWN you are not supposed to come to a complete stop in the EZ pass lane.

Hour 8 Suri, How long is the New Jersey turnpike? (FYI 122.4 miles)

Hour 9 Boo wakes up because we stopped for gas. Abby wakes up because she needs to throw up. I guess NJ will do that to you.

Hour 10 Apparently Delaware has decided to balance their budget by having a toll every 50 feet

Hour 11 Maryland has a specific area on I-95 for DUI enforcement. But you can drive anywhere else on 95 drunk?

Hour 12 Virginia's answer to unemployment is to hire State Troopers and place them every 50 feet.

Hour 13(3 am)  Holy crap I'm tired

Hour 14 - 16 sleeping as comfortably as you can in the front seat

Hour 17 wake up because Abby kicked me in the head

Hour 18 New York drivers in North Carolina are still fruitcakes

Hour 19 The Border does close. In South Carolina anyway. When you drive through the night and arrive at 7am. After seeing their signs every 2.2 miles for the last 50 this was kind of a disappointment.




Hour 20 How can the battery in the IPAD, IPOD, DVD Player and the IPHONE all need charging at the same time?



Hour 21 They should make turn signals optional in cars. Since no one seems to use them think of the money they would save.

Hour 22 I owe my mother a debt of gratitude for giving Boo head phones for her birthday. They were such a great idea we got Abby a pair too.



Hour 23 If you have to have a sign that says Bridge Ices Before Highway can you please have a sign that says "Hey you, the one trying to exit the highway from the left lane there is a turn signal on your steering wheel".

Hour 24 Dinner!



Hour 25 I just realized that no one has asked "are we there yet"

Hour 26 We are so close....

Hour 27 how many red lights are there in freaking Florida?

The end of hour 27 we made it! Welcome to Cape Coral

 


 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Easier?

Having Abby and Boo gives me a split view of the world. I am Abby's mom--that typical mom doing homework, planning activities and navigating the world of tweendom. I am also Boo's mom--therapy planning, advocating, educating others and most times trying to do my very best.

Being a mom of two completely different children has allowed me to realize that being a 'special' mom is sometimes easier than being a typical one. For example,  this morning with Boo I didn't have to:

  • Deal with eye rolls
  • Have wardrobe fights in the morning
  • Listen to her talk back
  • Tell her to clean her room
  • Get her to understand that clearing the table doesn't mean just dumping the table contents onto the nearest counter
  • And tonight I don't have to help Boo do homework

Of course, I also didn't have help her in the bathroom.  








Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Day!

Today Bridget turns five. FIVE. That is half a decade I didn't think I would have with this beautiful child. I have a tradition. Every year I thank everyone who helps her be the best she can be.



Her school. Her teacher and assistants. Her classmates that include Bridget not due to inclusion but due to friendship. With their help she has found her voice. A year ago she was in class but quiet. Now she bosses her classmates at the top of her lungs. A child we were told would never speak shouts.

Her school therapists. They have the hardest job out there. They remain kind but strict, loving but firm. I honestly do not know how they care for the children in this program day in and day out. They are poorly paid, over qualified and have unending patience. We are so very lucky to live in a town where children with special needs are included and counted.  With the upmost care they have taught Bridget how to jump, how to draw a circle and how to be plugged into the world around her.

Her Spaulding team. She has the best bunch of therapists at Spaulding. They have become our support system, our friends and our race buddies. 



They care for more than just Bridget. Her SPT has helped Abby with her homework, or well tried to. Her OT has let Abby be involved with sensory play. Her PT has let Abby be a part of the obstacle course. It's more than the therapists. The secretaries greet Bridget with a smile and a hug. The medical assistants whom we are not patients for pick Bridget up and listen to her babble. They meet David & I out for dinner. They see us as more than parents of their patient.

Her Children's team. This year Bridget graduated out of three programs. Her MD list is down to eight. That's right EIGHT. She still has her quirks but now only needs to see the other doctors in an emergency. She is STABLE people. As in stable does not need intense monitoring. As in has not been hospitalized in TWO years. As in only has to go to CHB twice a year.

Her friends. The little girl who invited Bridget to a birthday party. The friends that come over to our home because it is easier for her than going to theirs. The friends at our Irish pub who smile at her antics when we take her out for dinner. The friends that encouraged her all summer so we could have this moment. This beautiful moment:





Her family. The ones the read this blog and don't get upset with me for my openess. The ones that know by reading this blog they are helping Bridget. The ones that don't read this blog but show their love to Bridget by supporting her every moment.

Her sister.  Abby is aware that her sister is special. Each year the definition, in Abby's mind, of special evolves. But what never wavers is her love and support. She is the reason Bridget went into the ball pit of terror in OT. Her name was Bridget's first word and she is the first person Bridget runs to after school.

Today is Bridget's Happy Day. And I thank each and everyone one of you for making it so.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Jailed!

Okay, I cannot believe she did it. DJ Jen took my crazy idea for a mix-tape and is making you all suffer from my craziness. The good kind of crazy, I think. I hope. Hey it's Thanksgiving no one is reading posts this week, right?

Here is what happened: I'm driving along and almost got rear ended by a little old lady who couldn't see over the steering wheel. In the background was Toby Keith:




I wasn't hit in the head, like you might suppose, but it clicked in my head this song could make me go to jail. If I followed the directions. At least that is what Tipper Gore told our moms in the 80's....



Just think, you are innocently listening to Steve Miller and realize that the cops will never catch you. So you decide to become Bonnie & Clyde or Joe &  Bobbie Sue....




After watching Grease for the 999th time this week you start to think hey the Beatles might be a good influence for Boo. You find Sgt. Pepper on ITunes and the next thing you know you are getting a little high with your friends. You begin growing strawberry fields while you see Lucy in the Sky. Then Don from Don of all Trades knocks on your door.

Of course you have no other choice but to RUN!




Thanks, Jen for letting my mix-up mind take over your Twisted Mix Tape!








Thursday, November 21, 2013

Today I am thankful...

Today I am thankful for M&M's. No seriously. You are thinking um Kerri it's the week before Thanksgiving and you are supposed to give thanks for all the blessings in your life. But I am doing that next week, for a special reason. 

Yet I am totally thankful for M&M's. First they are the breakfast of champions. Okay, not champions but mine. They get me through the work day. On a boring conference call? Pop some M&M's believe me you will feel better. Abby even ratted me out to the school nutritionist:


My mom NEVER eats breakfast or lunch. Sometimes she has popcorn for dinner. But she made me eat shepherd's pie last night while she didn't eat at all. Do you know how gross shepherd's pie is?


Here's the thing, kiddo. As your mom it is not my job to eat healthy. It is my job to make sure you do.




Finish the Sentence Friday
I've written before about Boo's wandering. It started about as soon as she came off the walker. If she is outside you blink and she has eloped. It is beyond scary to know your child will wander off and not realize she is unsafe. I even had a bright idea and e-mailed NIKE about putting a chip in children's shoes.

They refuse, on principal, to take unsolicited advice.

So I remained scared and worried. A lot of my fear is due to Boo's lack of verbal skills. Then a police officer friend told us about Safety Net by LoJack.

Let me state right here, I am not being paid nor has LoJack asked me for any type of endorsement. They have no idea I am even writing this post.

Safety Net is a bracelet Boo wears. It has a rocking purple strap and about the size of a watch. Okay, it is a tad big on her....but she is a petite little thing! She wears the bracelet 24/7. If she wanders we alert 911 and provide her name. Our local department has her signal ID. If we travel we let LoJack know our destination and they will alert authorities that we will be in there area.

Unlike cell phone and GPS signals, LoJack uses a radio transmitter that can be used in any condition and locale. Since we like the mountains, we were relieved. Her bracelet is waterproof. She can use it in the bath, the pool and the ocean. And if we can convince her the sand.


It is expensive, $400 for the first year. We asked our families to contribute. We let them know what we were doing and asked that instead of getting her a birthday/Christmas present this year they take whatever money they normally would have spent and put it towards her safety.


All responded with generosity. They understand that Boo doesn't "play" and doesn't need material things...but she does need to remain safe. While her bracelet will not stop her from eloping, it will help us locate her with a great chance of finding her alive.

The system arrived within a day. We put it on Boo. She did NOT like us putting it on. But now that it is securely on, she has been showing off her "bracelet" to everyone she comes into contact with. She has slept, bathed, done crafts (with grandma I was banned by Abby) and gone to school with it.



She has been wearing the "bracelet" about a week. She has asked for it to be "off" once and a while but for the most part has realized it is staying put! 

If you see Boo around town make sure you ask her to show her new rocking accessory.
 
 


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

You cheating scum

There are way too many country songs about cheating. I don't want to be predictable....too much anyway other than mixing up Jen's Mix. There are so many ways to cheat after all...



Don Henley's voice, his passion over what was going on in Wall Street way before it was on the network news, long before the 99 percenters. Sure it was about the 87 crash, however I think it is still appropriate today.



When some of us decided to back a race over the people, they cheated on the American Dream. Martin Luther King, JR gave us the voice of reason. U2 gave us the melody.




When the social elite decided to send other men's sons to war and kept their own safe and sound CCR called them out for the cheating scum they were.

 





I was a child in the 70's, but 9-5 showed that there was a way to break that glass ceiling and to break the cheating bosses!











Monday, November 18, 2013

Being included

Last year I was humbled and so surprised when Boo was invited to another child's birthday party. I remember writing that she was included, that the children in her classroom see Boo and not a child with a  disability. But I worried that she wasn't really a peer. It ended up being a moot point, as we were unable to attend the party due to a family commitment.

At that time a friend wrote to me and said it so wonderfully that just that day her children, both of them, proclaimed Boo to be their friend. That in children's minds they are all peers. It really is just us adults that make the mistake of thinking otherwise.

I have remembered those kind words. You see, Boo was invited to another birthday party. Yes, I was kind of worried and spoke to the mom (who is also Boo's therapist at school) but those words kept coming back to me. I decided to be honest and let her know my fear. That we wanted to attend, but I didn't want her daughter to be disappointed when Boo, well is Boo. The party was being held at a gymnastics center, there would be obstacles and activities that she just wouldn't understand. She might become overwhelmed or disruptive. I honestly didn't want Boo to detract from another little girl's first 'for real' birthday party.

Thankfully, the mom completely understood and reassured me that all would be fine. I'm sure it helped that she works with Boo a couple times a week! We went and Boo had a great time. Sure, she didn't participate like the other children. The teenagers running the party had to pay her more attention. They were accepting and kind. I only had to rescue her twice when she got overwhelmed. The older children attending the party made sure she was safe and the youngers ones just ran around her.

But she had fun! She ran around the obstacle course in her own manner. She ate her cupcake (and tried to eat the child's next to hers). She watched her friend open presents (and tried to steal them). She squealed at the Princess goody cup and stickers. She proclaimed HAPPY DAY and HAPPY CAKE to her friend.



She was a typical kid having fun at a birthday party.  And just like that typical kid, she barely stayed awake for the ride home!


I am so thankful that last year a kind friend planted the seed: that adults see the disability not the children. I realized as I was writing this post that four years ago I never imagined this day. THIS day that Boo would be invited to a party not because of inclusion but because of friendship.

A happy day indeed.






Thursday, November 14, 2013

Picture this...

It’s that time of year when our e-mail inboxes get slammed with spam from Shutterfly and Snapfish advertising discounts on holiday card orders.  All the cards they have in their ad displays a beautiful portrait of a family interacting so naturally hanging out in a field or by the beach.  Everyone is smiling and laughing.  You can almost feel their happiness.  I always think, “I could NEVER get a picture of my kids doing that”..  Worse, I avoid that formal picture because I know that Boo will have such trouble focusing on the photographer. She might look vacant or checked-out. 

But then I met Zach’s mom, Laura. Her reply? Well, of course you can!  I’d like to introduce you to Laura, an awesome mom and someone who taught me to relax in the moment of trying to get that ‘typical’ family portrait. 

 
And hey, my first ever guest posting on my blog!

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Photo Credit - Trace Melody
I’m a mom-tographer based on the Cape.  Every year around the holidays my schedule packs up.  Parents contact me sounding anxious to schedule a holiday session with their kids but apprehensive.  The conversation always starts out with the same phrase “I just want a few good pics of my kids.” And they hope to, “Maybe get a nice one of all of us”.  Then, their session rolls around and we rock it out.  I may show the parents one or two little quick glimpses on the back of my camera but I like to save the best for when they see their gallery. 


The gratitude for not only beautiful portraits, but also for a fun experience is what pours out of these families.  I love giving that experience to people.  Giving them a visual representation of not just what their family looks like, but WHO they are together.  Their connection and how they interact with one another.  Capturing their children’s reactions to their Daddy’s funny story-telling voice.  It’s the art of the family I always strive to capture.  And it’s not always easy.  Those amazing smiles usually come after some protest and maybe a few tears.  But I keep my patience with a few simple tricks that you can use if you’re going try and take a holiday portrait yourself! 

-   Get outside!  Kids are naturally more relaxed outdoors.  The light is gorgeous outside and you’re almost guaranteed a few keepers if you shoot outside.  Preferably right around the 3pm mark. 


-   Put their back to the sun!  People have this common misconception that they need to light up their kids’ faces by having them face the sun.  Not true.  Put their back to the sun and you’ll have some gorgeous results. 
 
 


-  Turn off your flash!  Especially when shooting outside.  Flash is unflattering and gets rid of some very interesting shadows on the face.  Shadows show depth and make a portrait more dimensional.  Turn off flash.  You’ll love the results.   

-  Take the pressure off.  Try to steer clear of phrases like, “Ok!  Let’s go take a picture now!!  Everyone look at me and smile!!  If you don’t smile no candy!!”  These phrases put pressure on the kids and will almost always produce less-than-desirable results.  Instead, try taking your children to a park or an unfamiliar field.  When your kids are involved in exploring, get low on their level and talk to them.  Talk to them about their favorite character from Sophia: The First, or Handy Manny.  Have your camera ready and when they glance up at you, press the shutter.  Their face will be natural and relaxed.  Even more so if you get them to laugh at you singing!  A much better smile will happen if it happens naturally rather than forcing it by saying “Cheeeeeese”. 

 
 


-  If you have sensory sensitive kiddos, be aware of their triggers and head them off at the pass.  If they don’t like grass, bring a throw blanket to toss on the grass.  Or a low stool for them to sit on.  The problem I have when I try to photograph my own son (who has classic Autism) is that he sees me every day.  I’m not interesting to him.  So, I have to make silly airplane noises and wave my hands in the air to get him to notice me.  But once he sees me and thinks, “Hey, mommy is doing something pretty silly there”. That is when I’ve got him.  I can capture his laughs in-between my silly acts. 
 


And if all of this still intimidates you, you could always invest in a professional to help you capture your families.  Special needs families are personally a favorite of mine to capture because I KNOW how I longed for someone to capture our interactions as a family together.  I needed to freeze the period in time where my sensory-seeking child would press his face into mine so hard, he’d shake.  And his infectious giggle when his daddy would make him fly up in the air.  Those moments for me are priceless.  And when I can take a family who is convinced that we’ll never get a good shot of their child because they’re fixated on the car door, that’s a challenge for me and I adore the parent’s reactions when I show them the incredible results. 

 


Laura Fiorillo is the owner of Family Tree Photography located in Sandwich, MA.   Contact familytreephotography@hotmail.com

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I'd like to thank Laura and the parents who allowed us to share their photos to demonstrate how our children are just so beautiful. While we never got that formal family photo, our pictures are unique just like our family. I cannot thank Laura enough for prompting me to do the photo shoot. Remember I once explained how Boo does the full body hug? The one that just pours out her love and enjoyment? Laura captured that moment which is so more spectacular than a staged formal shot. 



 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Leaves are tricky

I recently started running trails. It is safer than on the road. Less chance of getting run over. Less chance of old ladies tripping me on the sidewalk. The fall is so beautiful. Leaves are on the ground. Life is great.

I had a great run....

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It should tell a story

Some of the issues I have with today's music (man did I just age myself) is that the art of storytelling seems to have gone completely out the window. Instead they want to bombard us with sound, light and magic.

Forgetting that the magic is in the words that spring your imagination.




Barenaked and proud of it, the guys told us the classic story of a relationship fight. When you both know your wrong but it will take a week to make you say your sorry.




Taylor Swift, who at just 23 reached the pinnacle of her career. Friends, I'm in my 40's and still trying to find mine. She has her credits for sure, but storytelling? This is one young artist that knows the way to stay at the pinnacle is to reach your audience.




I've used him before and recently. But no one told a story like Harry.