Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Years Resolutions for 2013 - December 30, 2012

All right. Apparently the only way I stay even slightly accountable is if I make a list here in my blog, tag it, and review it throughout the year. Here goes nothing...
  1. Maintain my weight loss. Continue to go to Weight Watchers meetings and to stick to the program.
  2. Drive. The same resolution I make every year. In the second half of 2012, I didn't drive as much as I should have (even short distances are good for me). So I want to get back to that. 
  3. Similar to my resolution for 2012 - knit, crochet, use my yarn again. I miss it.
  4. Read 50 books. In 2012 I read approximately 30. Not good enough.
  5. Take Reiki Level II. Continue daily self practice.
  6. See if I can continue my freelance gig momentum and even add some writing into the mix.
  7. Write write write. Open my heart and write. Write for money. Blog for free. Write for the public and write for the private. Just write.
  8. Get off the couch.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Two Things to Get Over in 2013

Nobody reads my blog. This is not one of the two things I need to get over, it's a fact I have accepted. I can see who is clicking and why and from where. The post that gets the most traffic is a two-year-old post I made about a product I liked (still like) and apparently I'm the only person on the Intertubes who ever reviewed it. And sometimes friends will check in, sometimes people want to enter a contest I'm hosting, sometimes a blog hop will get a few curious eyes who never stay.

But mostly I'm in this tiny corner of the web talking to myself.

So here I will share two things I want to get over in 2013, the year I'm going to turn 40 (but not for a while). They were supposed to be part of a zine I was supposed to publish supposedly. I suppose that's part of this too - letting things go out of my head and into the world. I can always make a zine too...

1. When I was in something like 7th grade, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a writer with my whole heart. And I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. And then my English teacher - who I vaguely remember as being also-the-gym-teacher but I might be wrong? - he read this piece from the newspaper that was a bit over the top and that contained the phrase "Please God! Save us from this frozen hell!" And then he used that phrase to describe something I wrote a few weeks later - implying that I too was crazy over the top ridiculous and should shut up, or at least that's how I took it. And all of the passion and flowery writing that I wanted to do just kind of fell on the floor. Splat. I mean, it didn't stop me from writing - it didn't stop me from writing good and bad poetry in high school, it didn't stop me from writing sad poetry in college, it didn't stop me from writing...whatever it was I was writing, poetry-wise, in grad school. But it changed me on some molecular level. I have a few people (it's a secret) who have styles I admire desperately and who I want to emulate (I probably am writing this paragraph by slipping into their voices, actually) and in 2013 I might actually do that again. Let go. Open up. Be saved from that frozen hell. Not care what anyone thinks. I just want someone to read what I have to say.

2. When I was a kid, I remember overhearing my mother on the phone. She was complaining to someone. She had been interviewed for a newspaper article and apparently they'd promised that she would be anonymous, but her complaint was that the author of the piece described her so perfectly that "everyone" would immediately recognize her without her name attached. Somehow this was devastating. I don't remember what she was talking about, but I definitely took to heart that you're not supposed to attach your name to things. To beliefs. To ideas. Stay anonymous. Stay quiet. Stay out of the spotlight. Again, this didn't necessarily stop me at all times, but sometimes I pull back. I don't send my writing out to be read by anyone. I stay quiet. I don't comment. I don't want someone to read my name and those words attached. It's ridiculous. I'm going to try to get over it in 2013.

If you actually do read this, leave a comment saying hello, would you? Even if you stumbled on this post and never plan to come back. (Though not if you're a spammer. I hate spammers and I don't approve their comments so don't even try it, jerkface.)

2013 is going to be the year of experimenting with this blog, I think. Getting over my fear of flowery language, of posting too often, and of saying THIS IS MINE, THIS IS ME.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

End of Year 2012 List Meme Thing

It's about that time - time to fill out the End of the Year Meme for 2012! (Here's my list from 2010. And here's my list from 2011.)
1. What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before? 
Ran two 5Ks. Learned Reiki.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I really truly kept one of them (the first). I don't think I put yarn and needles together in any way, shape, or form in 2012. Didn't drive much at all. (I drove to YDFM pretty often for a while and then between the weather and being busy and a few other things...didn't. Edgewood didn't happen.) I actually did get rid of a TON of baby gear - sold it, gave it away, donated it. And I only read 30 books according to Shelfari - and I probably only read 20 books cover to cover.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? 
Yes! A few people did!
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Not anyone very close. My great-aunt who I didn't know very well but who was really amazing. 
5. What countries did you visit?
Aside from our trip to Virginia Beach, we didn't travel at all this year.
6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Better driving skillz. Reiki level II certification.
7. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
The day the kid got her talker. Election day. And some of the sadder news stories of 2012...
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Keeping my weight constant throughout the year. Adding a new (and big) freelance client to my roster. Continuing to work as an active freelance writer/editor. Achieving Reiki level I certification.
9. What was your biggest failure?
I didn't drive enough at all.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing huge. One minor medical drama situation that eventually resolved itself. Some periodontal work - short-term pain that seems to be leading to long-term benefits (with surgery sometime out in the future).
11. What was the best thing you bought?
I would say the new Tivo if it weren't currently causing problems (it's nifty). The talker. The Reiki class.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My kid!
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The news says it all...between those who actively hurt people and those who then made absolutely terrible commentary about those events, it was a pretty tough year.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Boring basics.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The talker. The kid's progress. The new freelance gig. Reiki.
16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
This year feels like the year I listened to a lot of silly pop songs - particularly on running mixes. (Call Me Maybe and Gangnam Style, yes.) Also the entire Rockabye Baby: Radiohead album and lots of Ellis Paul songs, Cat Power, Robyn, a rediscovery of Interpol, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, Lamb, Ani, Tori.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
- happier or sadder? happier
- richer or poorer? richer-sort of (more income than last year, though it still all went to catching up on bills)
- thinner or fatter? maintainey.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Driving. Running.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Procrastinating. Couch sitting.
20. How did you spend the holidays?
We spent Hanukkah celebrating quietly and we spent Christmas with friends (including an epic Chinese food dinner).
21. Did you fall in love in 2012?
22. How many one-night stands?
Uh no.
23. What was your favorite TV program?
Once Upon a Time, How I Met Your Mother, Dexter, The Big Bang Theory, Hart of Dixie, Grimm, and Revenge - sort of (loved Season 1, am losing interest rapidly in Season 2). 
24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Hate is a very strong word, but some relationships did shift in 2012.
25. What was the best book you read?
Of the books I read in 2012 that were published in 2012, I really liked:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky
A Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson
Crazy Enough by Storm Large
My favorite book that I read in 2012 was The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (but it was published in 2010).
26. What was your favorite film of this year?
I managed to get to the movies a few times but didn't love anything I saw. ETA: Oh! I had free Amazon Prime for a month so I streamed two documentaries I really liked: Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Between the Folds.
27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
Skinny jeans and boots. Enjoying my clothing again.
28 Whom did you miss?
Far away friends.
29. Who was the best new person you met?
There are a few. I don't really like to name names.
30. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
Good things come to those who wait.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Our AAC Journey - Still Moving Forward - December 19. 2012

Just a little update.

I continue to be pleased with our choice to go with the PRC Vantage Lite2. I've heard that the prototypes for the next generation are out (or maybe they're available now? if not, they will be VERY soon, for sure) but I am so so so glad that we grabbed the VL2 before it was discontinued. It's just the perfect size and shape for my kid as she uses it every single day. If nothing else, I'm glad we didn't wait because we might have still been waiting to even submit the paperwork--but instead we've had this device for two or three months already.

So far we've been working with the 60+1 system. In the nuttiest of nutshells, that means that she can have up to 60 icons on a screen at one time, and each icon corresponds to either a single word or a full sentence/question/joke/thought. You press the picture of an apple that says the word "apple" above it and the talker says "apple." You press the picture of a building that says the word "school" above it and the talker says "school." But her therapist finally said that in January we could move to the actual sequenced language (Minspeak) with the talker, which is, to me, the way it's really meant to be used and the reason we chose this over other devices/brands/options. I am thrilled. And again, the best way I can explain it (and it's new to me - I've read about it but we haven't actually used it yet, so my explanation may change down the road) is that instead of a one-to-one word-to-icon correspondence, the icons start to mean entire groups of words and you match them with word-families. That image of an apple now means all sorts of apple-related things - it's how you pair it with an icon that represents a noun or verb, for example, that turns it specific. Er...I think. In any case, it's a far more complex language, but it means that fewer icons represent more words. I'm just...really excited. (Also the plan is for her to go to more icons per screen at some point, though 60 seems to work well for now.)

This week at her school, my kid indicated in various ways (speech, gestures, her talker) that she wanted me to add the name of one of her friends to it. I didn't have time, so I said yeah yeah, I'll get to it later. Well, she remembered it when we picked her up, so I did do a quick add of that child's name to the Classmates grouping. Today the therapist mentioned that this was an impressive use by my kid of the device - I'm thinking it has to do with the understanding that we can add things, that the device helps her talk, and that she can choose what it says. Or maybe I'm totally wrong - it just was nice to have a therapist say something like that.

She mostly uses single words to get her point across, rather than full sentences - something I believe will change when we move along to sequenced language. I mean, right now it's a real pain to say "I want a cookie" and much easier for her to just navigate to the word cookie. (Yesterday at school she said "want brownie cookie" to ask for, well, a cookie-like brownie treat a classmate had brought in. A few weeks ago she told me she had a "chicken hamburger" for lunch - turns out it was, in fact, a chicken patty on a bun.) But she uses it so fluidly - ask her a question, she navigates to the right page (again, this will change soon) and finds the word/answer. She also likes to use her quick hits to tell people her name, ask questions, and say hi/goodbye.

Oh and she ordered her own drink at a restaurant the other night without prompting - as I was telling the waitress I'd like a glass of water for her, she used her talker to say "drink milk." As I laughed, she then said, "need drink water." (She got milk. I was so proud!)

Basically this device has really changed our lives. It's still not a magic wand. She still doesn't take the device and tell me her thoughts and dreams - sometimes she won't even tell me what she wants for dinner. But she's only five years old and she's only had her own device for a few months - we've come so far in such a short time, I am excited to see what the next months and years will bring! (Her other speech therapist did say she fully expects my kid to be primarily verbal in a few years, but I think that she'll at least need a device for clarifying things or for certain situations, just as I expect my kid to walk unassisted - she already takes many steps on her own - but I know she might need her walker for longer distances or in certain situations.)

And finally, I've found my kid a role model. Yes, my daughter can grow up to be a foul-mouthed stand-up comic just like Lee Ridley if she wants to - a choice I definitely encourage! (On Twitter, he told me he approves as long as she doesn't steal his jokes.) If you go to Lee's site, watch how he delivers his comedy - his device does the talking, but he uses his body and face to deliver the joke himself. And, dammit, he's funny!

Stay tuned because switching to sequenced language is a huge change - one I embrace!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Progress Progress Progress - December 5, 2012

Sometimes it can be draining when I get progress/status reports about my kid. Often they're comparing her to other kids her age - and of course she's nowhere near them in terms of many of her skills. She's nowhere near kids years younger than her in some ways. It's tricky because right now she's sort of locked into her own body - some of the skills that standardized tests check depend on other skills that are taken for granted. If you can't stand unassisted, for example, then there's no way you can hop on one foot. If you can't hold a pencil properly, then you can't trace a shape or start to write letters. If you can't speak clearly, then you can't use multiple adjectives to describe an object. That doesn't mean you don't know what hopping is, or that you don't think of things with adjectives, or that you don't know the difference between a circle and a square, but it get zeroes on the test and "only performs at a blahblah level" statements and a message that you're not where you SHOULD be and that this is bad.

Today, however, we had my kid's yearly parent-teacher conference, and the progress reports were about her and her progress alone. They were about her IEP goals and about the skills she's achieving that are age-appropriate but in terms of how she does them rather than whether she's doing them "properly" or whatever.

My heart soared.

When she started preschool at age 3 (in the older-2s classroom - the cutoff for kids is September and her birthday is in the summer, so she's one of the oldest in her classroom but her classmates start to catch up within a few months) she went for four hours a day. And she would scream. And scream. And scream. She'd be sobbing when we picked her up. She slowly started to enjoy school, but her skills were slow to catch up. She was always super social but some of the other things that were expected of her...weren't happening for various reasons. But now, at age 5 and in pre-K, she's flourishing. She can do so many things that her peers can do - and beyond - she just does them in her own way. She's demonstrating, finally, that she is IN THERE - as I say over and over and over. And her teachers - both special ed and general ed - are giving her the opportunity to shine.

Today, with each "She can do this now" on the list or each "She does this with 60% accuracy," my smile grew more and more. We are so lucky to live in the school system we're in (we knew it was good but we didn't know when we moved here that we'd need a bit more than just "good schools" in place!). We are so lucky that her teachers are on board with her, that they recognize her challenges, that they're using her AAC device as her voice - as part of her, not as a toy nor as a distraction, that they're encouraging her to do things - and to do them independently and to be ready for kindergarten. (She just needs to learn to wait her turn and to be patient. But as her impulsive and impatient and headstrong mama, I say that she really is just acting like me. Oops.)

My kid's prognosis has always been bright. Honestly, nobody has ever told us "she can't" or "she won't." Neurologists, developmental pediatricians, specialists, and therapists of all types have always said "she will" and "she can" over and over and over. I haven't taken this for granted - my husband and I have worked with our daughter to make sure that these predictions come true. It's different than fighting against the negativity I know some parents do face - I don't have that "I can't wait to go back to person X and show him/her what my kid can do now!" feeling - but I still have that mama bear instinct that makes me want to see my kid succeed like all parents want. For me, it's more of an "in your face, society!" feeling than anything else.

So today I celebrate my kid's amazing teachers and therapists (in and out of school) and the community in which we live. And I celebrate progress. She's come so far and she's only five. ONLY FIVE. Every day she does more and more and more and every day I cheer her on. Because she's awesome.