Monday, April 21, 2014

Triathlon (zum dritten Mal)

So. Seven weeks until my third triathlon. I keep swearing that I’m not doing another one, and then I sign up again. But I mean it this time! Last one. Really. Probably.

Perhaps it’s too early to say, but I don’t think I’m going to beat last year’s time. I have shitloads of excuses ready. How many do you need? My asthma is worse. Back problems. I was promoted, and I went up in hours-per-workweek. I’m a whole year older. It was an awful winter, and I couldn't run outside for 5 months. At night, the ice weasels come.

I ran a 35 minute 5K today. Sad. I never improve much. Only been biking outside on a longer ride once. I’m actually working out most days, but it’s a hodgepodge of different things. Spin class. Boot camp type class. Swimming. Blah blah. I dunno. Maybe I can blame the fact that, for the first time, none of my friends are joining me this year, but since no one was ever in my age group (whippersnappers!), what difference does it make? Triathlons tend to be pretty individualistic anyway.

N and I are hoping to go on longer bike rides this year. Like we did before we had kids. That’s still my favorite sport, so it certainly makes sense. Easy on the body. See the sights. Wind in your face. Birdies in the trees. Snack in your pocket. Maybe I should pretend to bike to work. 20 minutes before and after the workday here at home. That’ll be a lot easier once both girls are taking the bus to middle school. Only 16 more months! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Random photos

The kids are busy with softball, basketball, swimming, and training to run Boo's second/Nea's first 5K. 

N has been transforming our unfinished basement into different rooms. Laundry and workout rooms are nearly complete. A large family room to come. 

I'm still me, but with more work hours, larger granola batches, yet more triathlon training, and attempts to transition volunteer work to others as much as possible. Only another year left at the grade school! Need to start handing off my pet projects.

So, here's some things that happened this week, in photos.

On the way to pick up a new guinea pig from a rescue group, a call to update the blog:

Here she is, the new pig. Her new name is Pepper. Ain't she cute?! We never renamed a pig before (and this is our 4th rescue pig), but "Peggy" didn't do it for us. Before that she was apparently "Piggie Pig" which is pretty weak. So, back up to 3 pigs currently.

And lastly, the first sprout of the season! Front left, if you can't find it. Late start, with it still snowing and all. Might have to buy my tomato plants this year. Oh well.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Apraxia update and advice for parents of children with apraxia

Someone recently asked me for advice on their newly diagnosed child. Here's sort of a brain dump of thoughts.


Nea is 9 and half. She’s a June birthday, so she’s one of the youngest in her 4th grade class, which is my greatest regret. I should have held her back, but the school was not supportive, and I didn't want to call lawyers in. She’s about a year behind academically, which is much better than a few years ago. She can spell words like “family, students, those, running.” Not bad, considering she still has trouble with TH, J, and R. Also, her short vowels continue to be an issue. Our school SLP (90 minutes a week) and private SLP (60 minutes a week) work together closely.

I asked our private SLP (who is FANTASTIC. Keep looking until you find someone with experience in apraxia.) recently what Nea’s long-term prognosis is. For the first time, her answer was 100% intelligibility! Imagine my joy. She’s not there yet, but we keep working towards it.

One thing that we emphasized very early in her life was, "I don't understand. Can you tell me another way?" This has really paid off. She uses gestures, she tells us context, she puts the word in a sentence.

What I noticed over time was that she wouldn't get easier to understand even as her speech improved, because she was using more complex ideas, abstract concepts, etc. It was helpful that she was used to explaining herself in different ways.

That's maybe the hardest thing about having a kid with a huge speech problem. For years you don't have any view into their inner thoughts. You only get small clues into what's bothering them. And it sucks that everything is such a struggle. Even now she still has to repeat herself a few times every day to us, and we understand her better than anyone else.

We just had her annual IEP, and I needed to put together some speech samples for our private SLP’s report. Here’s what I sent:

A few random thoughts from Nea:
  • How the people take it out anyways? 
  • How many people there are in Africa?
  • Where you teach German school?
 As you can see, there are lingering grammatical issues. I asked her what the perfect summer camp would be and she said:
Play with stuffed animals camp. 6 Flags America camp. Lombard pool camp to play in the water. Everything kids can do camp. There's no adults -- kids make their own decisions. And the last one is ... What are you writing? TV and video game camp.

Happiness is having a child that can say, “There's no adults -- kids make their own decisions.” It was totally understandable, even with articulation errors. What a great sentence.

Nea is in the other room practicing her drums for band. She finally learned to ride her bike at 8 years old. My greatest hope is that someday she enjoys reading. J

Advice for parents of children with apraxia

Having a special needs child intensifies your worry, your frustration with friends and family, your fear. It’s hard on our hearts, our marriages, our social network. Here’s what I wish I had heard 5 years ago:

Forgive yourself. Yes, you could always do 10 more minutes of speech practice, but your main role in your child’s life is PARENT. No one else can fill that role. Nea is a massive cuddlebug. I assume it’s what she needs to help her function in her stressful life.

Think of it this way: if you can make your child happy and make sure he/she continues to work hard in speech and academics, that is your greatest gift to him/her. Nea loves going to school, and she works hard every day, she’s a very happy child, and I consider all of that pretty damn important.

Advocate at school, getting all the services you can for him/her. Educate yourself on what services are available. What are other parents getting for their kids? Never take the school's answer as a final answer. They may say no one receives more than 60 minutes a week of speech therapy. That statement is not legal. They must provide services as deemed necessary for your child's individual needs. Ask for everything in writing. 

If people in your life are not supportive, try to build a new support system with other parents with special needs kids. My Facebook feed is full of CASANA posts. Try to find a local group of supportive parents and meet up once a month.

I know you want a crystal ball. No one knows what the future holds. It’s a very hard path we’re on. Be kind to yourself.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ugly ornament party - updates

As previously discussed, we like to throw the occasional ugly ornament party. We called the party “annual” for a long time, but at some point we realized that we were horrible filthy liars. It’s not annual if you skip years with a frightening degree of regularly. Anyway. Had one in 2011. Had one again this past month.
The 2011 winner was entitled “With the Teeth” and was presented into competition by the fabulous, marvelous Josh and Jean-Marie. It’s awful, and completely deserved to win.
As usual, whatever it was that I entered was a boring type of bad. Sigh. It’s hard finding good contenders. I keep an eye out at garage sales and rummage sales all year, but there’s so much that’s just a middling amount of ugly.

It was Santabird, back in the day, that forced us to make two categories. Who can compete with a twisted mind like that? But again, coming up with creative ugly is harder than it appears. Trust me, I've tried.

Sandi brought "Scary Poppins" to our house, and won the homemade/altered prize. She bought it at a craft fair. You probably can’t tell from this photo, but it’s mostly made out of beads and safety pins. She is holding an umbrella. Again, please note that a good title can take your ornament to the next level of awful.

And in the store-bought category this year, our first two-peat! Josh and Jean-Marie returned with "Little Red," the runaway winner. Bought at the same antique store as their last winner. They haven’t said where this store is, but I’m going to have to see if I can figure it out.

Because that place is clearly a goldmine of hideousness.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Beware of nutritional supplements promising miracles

Oh, gosh, what a shock: 
A dietary supplement aimed at children with speech delays is being deceptively marketed by NourishLife, LLC, and may be hazardous to children’s health, according to findings by (TINA). TINA, a nonprofit based in Madison, CT, has alerted the company and is filing complaints with federal and state regulators.
They left a comment on my blog once. I deleted it, and posted this
Just don’t shill your shit on my site, asshole. I've got enough medical related expenses right now without someone preying on a parent’s hopes and dreams with false promises and testimonials. Fuck right off.
A reminder that the FTC says:
Dietary supplements may seem like harmless health boosters. But while some have proven benefits, many don't. Unlike drugs, dietary supplements aren't evaluated or reviewed by FDA for safety and effectiveness, and even "natural" supplements can be risky depending on the medicines you take or the medical conditions you have. In recent years, hundreds of supplements also have been found to be tainted with drugs and other chemicals. Always talk to your doctor before you take a new supplement, and avoid any supplement claiming it's a "cure."
Eat healthy unprocessed foods as much as possible, and save your money.  

Edited to add: this press release went out in March, but I just heard about it now. Spread the word!

Sunday, October 6, 2013


One day a long long time ago, I think it was in May, I went to a garage sale with the kids. I gave this bench a look, but from afar it looked like the price tag said $300, which was believable. A nice bench like that.  But as I squinted more carefully, I realized that this oak veneer bench with hideous stained fabric was really marked $30. No way, I thought very very quietly to myself. What a deal. I sprang into action, declared it sold, and made the kids sit on it for safekeeping. You know how crazy people can get at garage sales. I wanted to take no chances.

Isn't this great? I said to the kids. No, they said. They hated it. I proudly brought it home and showed it to N. He was not impressed. No vision, this family of mine. So I ignored them and went to the fabric store, clutching a coupon. And now, wah laa, it is finished. Got some nice baskets from Target to store our shoes underneath. Makes the back door all fancy-like. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

View from a blog

Gosh, it's been an age. Hello!

We had a fire in the chiminea the other night. I sat there quite awhile, as you can see. 

Trash picked items: hurricane lamp, sundial, candlesticks, and the lovely fern in the back.