November 18, 2014

IEP Meeting 2014

Last week we had our second annual IEP meeting. I can't imagine how difficult that process might be for families when their school isn't a 'safe' place for their family. For us, however, Abi's school is like going to your favorite great-aunt's house. It's warm and inviting and exciting and you get the feeling that everybody is working behind the scenes to make sure Abi's time with them is the very best it can be. They are enthusiastic and positive and acknowledge Abi's many gifts. Our hour-long meeting was spent discussing Abi's strengths and the ways we can use those strengths to help her grow. 

Some highlights from the meeting:

- Assistive Technology team is providing a head-switch for Abi! I CAN'T WAIT!!!!
- Abi met her goal of being able to look at an object for 10 seconds. So, the team is also giving her an eye-gaze board!
- They are also supplying her teachers with a sensory pillow, and some other really exciting cause and effect pieces they think Abi will love. We will be able to check out any tools that are working and bring them home! 

Each member of the team: Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, Classroom Teacher and Speech Therapist shared with me the things they were doing in class and the ways Abi was responding. I love that they are allowing Abi to pick books and songs for the class using the eye-gaze method. She is included in every aspect of the class except snack time. We did however, reach a major milestone, when at her classroom's Fall Party last month I was able to attend and assist Abi in eating some of a sugar cookie, orange icing and a little bit of grape juice! It was very exciting for me. While Abiella can safely eat by mouth it's still a delicate process with some anxiety attached if not done in ways her feeding therapist has shown me. I'm sure we will be joining snack time in the future, but for now, I have a peace with pulling her out. As a major benefit, while her classmates eat a snack, she gets to go to the floor and receive some extra one-on-one time with her physical therapists. They use both school PT's at the same time and she seems to love being with them. It's a wonderful way to give Abi something special during that time that she really enjoys.

I left the IEP meeting with half-a-dozen leftover muffins and the excitement that my girl is getting  an incredible education! So thankful.
mama mae mae

PS- This school is a public elementary school that has a free early childhood program for eligible students. Half of the students in the early childhood program have varying special needs and the other half is considered typical. It's an inclusive, half-day program, 4 days a week.

May 6, 2014

Abi's Tap Shoes

Last week I was in Goodwill when out of the corner of my eye I spotted these beauties. 


Thinking they were a good pair of neutral flats, I picked them up to see if they would fit Abi and discovered not only were they the right size but they were TAP SHOES. TAP. SHOES.
This was monumental for a few reasons.

Abi loves loud SOUNDS and since we are working on mobility, I thought tap shoes could be an awesome motivation.  We recently got a walker called a “kid-walk” (thanks to the amazing community of special needs mamas in this town).  This amazing piece of equipment holds her upright and allows her torso to be totally secure while she explores the mobility of her legs. She LOVES to kick when she’s lying down or in her chair. Now if we can get her to do that upright, I think the possibilities are endless . SO I figure if she likes the sounds of the tap shoes on the floor, she might be enticed to bring those kicking skills into our time with the walker.  “KICK! KICK! KICK! MARCH! MARCH! MARCH!”  These are our new favorite phrases -- Followed by lots of clapping and us both laughing. Right now I’m still putting her feet a little bit behind her and letting her feel what it’s like to push off on her own and roll backwards a little. Today I saw her trying to move forward a bit when I was out of her view. A little independent exploration is so very very awesome to see. 


Meanwhile, I found my own tap shoes in the back of my closet. Abi laughs hysterically every time I walk in them. This is going to be a fun and *noisy* summer. 
mae mae

April 29, 2014

Abi's School

School- I still can't get over it. When Abi was first home, I knew that our services through TEIS (Tennessee's Early Intervention System) would stop on the day before her 3rd birthday. TEIS would provide all therapeutic services in home and in clinic up until that point. (Hallelujah.) This wasn't something we thought too much about before she came home but WOW what a blessing it was. Our adoptive coordinator had mentioned it early on and when the doctors at the hospital asked if I'd like to be referred I gladly agreed. What a gentle way to be introduced to all the therapies. They came, interviewed us, evaluated Abi and then as a unit (parents and coordinator) we came up with a list of goals for Abi and then began facilitating services that would help with those goals. If I wanted feeding therapy in the house they set that up for me, when I moved they transferred all of our services to closer facilities. It was truly a massive blessing.

From our first meeting with TEIS, I knew the next step, should we choose to participate, would be to allow Abi to attend a unique preschool program provided through the state to fill the time between her 3rd birthday and kindergarten. The first time our TEIS coordinator mentioned it, I was hesitant. I wanted Abi to have social interaction but this was big-kid education... in a REAL school building. "You mean my three year old would be attending school? Like big-kid school? Like a typical elementary school with a cafeteria and a flagpole and a principal and morning announcements and everything?" Yikes. Even though her class would only have three and four year olds, the thought was intimidating. I knew I had a year to decide if it was right for us. During that year we moved and our new house was located in the school district that I had attended for most of my childhood. It was familiar territory- exciting and happy familiar territory. Our new TEIS coordinator was equally as excited about the previously mentioned program and encouraged me to at least go for a tour. We went to the closest school offering this program (12 minutes away. SWEET!), we debated, we talked to friends who had walked the same path with their children with special needs, we gasped as 5th graders passed us in the hall (they're SO BIG) and after a lot of consideration we jumped in. We decided to give the (free) public school program a shot and then if we weren't satisfied, we would transfer to a private preschool program in our area for children with special needs.

I'm ridiculously thankful. I can't even explain how much this program has blessed us. The class that Abiella is a part of is absolutely phenomenal. She goes 3 hours a day, 4 days a week. She is in class with three and four year olds and they meet in a local elementary school. Abiella's class is one of 4 in the building participating in this unique preschool program. She is one of 10 kids in her class, (hooray!) with, bum-bada-bummmm... 4 adults. These four adults include the classroom teacher (with a master's degree in early education), a mother of 5 who serves as an amazing aid, a NURSE who serves as another aid, and a rotation of a physical therapist, a speech therapist and an occupational therapist. Good gosh that's incredible. It's an inclusive classroom. Approximately half of the students have special needs of varying types. The other half, considered "typical", must apply to attend the program and serve as peer mentors. It literally takes my breath away when I try to explain it to people. I feel like I'm living a dream.

The truth is though, a program like this means nothing, if you don't have the right spirit. Credentials, degrees, and fancy buildings are worthless if the love and soul of a program isn't thriving in the heart of the person holding your child. And THAT is what I love most about this place. When I pull my van up every morning we are greeted by so many wonderful women who are ready and excited to love Abi, wheel her into the building and provide her with an amazing, exciting and safe educational experience. I drive away in awe every time. EVERY. TIME.

So if you're thinking of looking into preschool options for your special kiddos, I highly encourage you to take a deep breath and at least look. I know not all programs are created equal and I feel very blessed to live near this one. Each situation has it's own unique fit. But WOW what an amazing blessing it is, to stand there with mamas and daddy's in similar situations and watch all our kids come out in a line to greet us at the end of their day. Kisses being blown to one another, Abi smiling ear to ear and teachers returning our precious cargo- Happy and well educated.



mae mae

March 21, 2014

Please Help Abiella Win an Adaptive Bicycle!!!!!!!

Hi Friends! 

This is BIG news! Abiella's physical therapist has helped us enter an incredible contest that gives adaptive bicycles away to children and young adults with special needs. The bicycle our PT has suggested is absolutely AWESOME. It would allow Abiella to use her legs to work the bike while her neck, trunk, and head are completely supported. This could be SUCH a huge deal for Abiella. Independent movement! Summer fun! AHH!! If we win, it could be here in MAY! Just in time for summer! Ahh!! Please consider going to this link, clicking NOMINATE, and then spreading the word if you feel so inclined :) Every nomination gets Abiella closer to winning the bike! The person with the most nominations automatically wins a bike and then everyone else who has received 50 nominations or more is put into a drawing for the remaining bikes. This would be such a wonderful thing for Abiella! She loves being outside and would LOVE the opportunity to enjoy the summer and ride a bike around the neighborhood like her other friends.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR LOVE AND SUPPORT!

Here's the link again: 


Much Love Friends, 
Mama Mae Mae

January 24, 2014

Triple Time Steps and Doctors Appointments

Today I went to the pediatrician with Abi and upon minute 50 of our wait-time my fatigue got the best of me and without thinking I went into my "must-stay-awake" default mode- Otherwise known as Tap Dancing. Abi was only half as impressed as I was. Turns out I've still got a pretty decent shuffle back, which paired with "Wheels on the Bus" playing through my phone speakers... I mean I had a pretty good thing going on.


And no, I didn't get a pic of me actually doing it. There's not a whole lot more awkward than a mom tap dancing in her child's doctor's office, WHILE TAKING A SELFIE, as her daughter watches beside only slightly impressed. So no. No pic. But as I pivoted and triple time stepped my way around the table Abi lay on, I kept a keen lookout and was about 70%  sure I could stop my wings midway if I saw an incoming guest... I did resolve to the fact that I would probably have to explain the noise. It was a risk worth taking.


Happy Friday friends. 
mae mae




January 14, 2014

Whew. And we're caught up.

I've noticed that when most bloggers disappear for a while, they come back with "I was just so busy this month!" or "Things got crazy and I just haven't had time to write." But for me it was the opposite. I went away from my blog because things were settling down. Life was hitting an incredible groove and I found that I just wanted to sit and ENJOY the things I would have typically been writing about. The Fall was incredible. Our new neighborhood was a joy to walk through during the season. We got pumpkins from our local feed mill. (Like 30 of them.) We had parties for Abiella's first year home. (Quite an incredible celebratory weekend really.) We had fires with friends out back and lots of pumpkin pie... it was just good. 

(Immediate disclaimer: Many of the photos in this post from Abi's Gotcha Day and Christmas festivities were taken by my talented sister Maddie. Thank you sister!)


Here are some photos from Abi's first Gotcha Day :)

Just magical. 

Throughout the next few months we made friends with folks in our new town, Abi began riding horses every week, and I had the joy of sitting on our couch with a cup of coffee 3 times a week and watching her incredible teachers and therapists come into our home and work with Abiella on core strength, cause and effect, independent movement and so many other skills. 


So blessed.
---
For Halloween, Abi was a bee. I mean come on. 

Here she is with her friend Charlotte at their awesome Trunk or Treat.

It was the best.

Then came Thanksgiving and Christmas. The holiday season signified a change in the tides. Not only was a new year approaching, but Abi's birthday (turning 3) meant many things. For one, we would be losing one of her teachers and rearranging our schedules to keep the therapies going. Second, all therapies would go on winter break for 1-3 weeks, and third Abi would be starting school in January. As these changes approached, we hunkered down, enjoyed the colder weather, decorated the house for Christmas and spent a lot of time with friends. There were music awards, Christmas work parties, friends' wedding festivities, friends turning 30, a holiday party with all my old girlfriends from college, Abi's first time going to the movies with her girlfriend Charlotte and more. 

Celebrating Ashley's 30th after our friends wedding the night before: air mattresses, pjs, breakfast casseroles, mimosas, and JTT :)  



When the week of Christmas finally hit, we celebrated with my dad, and then traveled to my grandmother's, spent an incredible night on the mountain with my mom and stepdad, and then returned to our home ready to welcome in a house full of guests from all over the country. The last 5 days of 2013 were spent with tons of homemade cookin', 3 meals a day with all 13 of us at the table in front of the fire, lots of time holding babies (Welcome to the family sweet Nephew Henry!!), and laughing until my sides were sore and my eyes couldn't stay open anymore. 1am would come quick and 6am would come even quicker. The house was full and happy and joyful and peaceful. In fact, after 3 days, I realized a few of us hadn't even left the house (like not stepped outside at all) and yet we hadn't even noticed. It was a dream, really. 



Best of all was seeing Abiella and Henry with each other for the first time. Cousins for life!


Matching PJ's handmade by their incredible grandmother, Nana Baa :)

We rang in the new year with Sean's mom cooking an incredible meal of lobster, steak, and veggies... Heck yes. It was divine.

Eventually, the house got quiet, the guests were gone and I was hit by the inevitable post-holiday blues. They were quickly swept away though by the winter storm that came in (exciting!) and then Abiella began school. Whattt?!!? Yep. Tis true. Abi is now attending school 3 hours a day 4 days a week... and I mean a big school with big kids and a cafeteria and a principal and a yearbook and everything. She receives incredible services there (PT, OT, Speech) all while being in a class with 9 of her peers. The first day I dropped her off, I cried as I drove away (predictable) and then sat with a coffee at Cracker Barrel and just looked at Sean with terror excitement in my eyes. I was excited, but oh so very nervous. Abi did great though. 

(Abi's first day of school!)

The second day she had even more fun, and I'm so thankful for the amazing blessings of early education programs, safe environments, and incredible teachers/therapists. Today I met the mom of one of Abi's classmates and she told me that Abi was very happy this morning when she saw her (after I dropped her off) and that made me breathe a sigh of gratitude. Whew.

Now, I sit here writing for the first time in months and it feels good. The new year has begun and with it brand new ventures.

Cheers to life, grand adventures and new beginnings :)

Happy 2014!

mae mae

October 8, 2013

Choosing Special Needs Adoption

I recently had the awesome honor of writing on a blog which I have admired for a long time. In fact, one day I was telling a girlfriend about this amazing family and she said, "Oh! Sister Haiti?? Yeah- I read that blog all the time. That family is incredible." Isn't it amazing how the blog world can connect strangers from across the world?

Salem is an inspiration to so many and an awesome advocate for orphans, particularly those on the waiting list with special needs. You should really go to her blog and read for awhile. Incredible.

Long story short, when she asked me if I would be interested in writing a post about choosing "special needs adoption" I was honored.

You can find that post HERE. 


Thanks again for the awesome opportunity to tell our story, Salem!

Many Blessings, 
Mae Mae