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.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Let's Talk about Shopping and Holidays and Rambling Stuff - November 25, 2012

I always watch the whirlwind of gift-buying swirl around me at this time of year. I grew up with Hanukkah - and a low-key Hanukkah at that. Yes, I received a present every night (sometimes it was one to share with my brother, and when my parents got divorced my dad always made sure I still had eight presents from him) but they were usually small things. I don't remember ever really getting a big gift, just something small that was exciting to open. One year my brother and I got a cassette recorder that we used for years to make our own radio shows. I think one year we got a 2XL to share. But mostly it was candy or a small toy or an item of clothing. Plus, Hanukkah moves around - as you probably know - so sometimes it was over and done with by the time my classmates where crowing over their Christmas haul.

When I got older and started dating my not-Jewish-at-all husband, I did enjoy a few Christmases with his very generous and welcoming family. Even then, we kept our own shopping pretty contained - until everyone started having babies and babies and more babies and there were more and more gifts for the kids, as the grown-up gifts dropped off. But then we moved away and needed to start our own traditions, and then we had a child with a disability and our focus moved from getting her presents to, quite honestly, getting her therapies.

So basically most years I'm not the one at the malls or online with a giant list of every single relative and a budget that is strained. It's just not how I was brought up (though seriously, sometimes it looks FUN). Our finances are tight this year - we're both freelancers, though I did just start an exciting new gig that hopefully will help things out for a few months - and most of our money is going toward boring things like bills and food. The kid's teachers and therapists (and oh there are a LOT of those!) are getting a locally made gift from a friend of mine - I've already ordered it (as one big lot) and I just need to pick it up from her.

That said, I indulged in a little shopping on this kick-off-to-the-season weekend. On Black Friday I stayed in, away from the stores and the crowds (nobody in my family does well in crowds - we all get overstimulated, though some of us handle it better than others...and by some of us I mean my husband). I wasn't going to shop at all, but then I poked around online a bit and grabbed the Toys R Us Groupon - available for about 15 more hours as of me writing this post! - so I could get my kid a few extra little things (and I bought it with Groupon credit I'd earned so it was free!). I also bought a replacement pair of headphones for my iPod/phone thanks to a very rare Apple sale (and you know, for all of my coupony-savey ways, I forgot to click through eBates to save on them, though Apple only gives 1% cash back - other stores give 6% or more!) - I had both birthday money and some cash I'd earned from Swagbucks.

Then I thought, well, I've been hoarding the Amazon gift cards I've been earning from Swagbucks, so I'll check out the deals over there - and there was a bonus $5-off-$25 coupon that was floating around that was about to expire. So this is what I "bought" myself (it was also all free* - and I even scored a free month of Prime - and now I am, again, oh so tempted to just pay for a year of Prime...):
I buy the Best Food Writing collection every year.
I needed something to get me to the $25 threshold to use the coupon - and I've been drooling over this book for some time. I love Lynda Barry!
Apparently this was a super-score, as when I decided to buy it, it was only $7.99 - it's more now. I needed something to get me off my ass since I haven't been running at all lately. I know, I know....

So yes, I bought myself Hanukkah presents - thank you Swagbucks!

But Saturday was Small Business Saturday - and I'd won a $25 gift card from FedEx's big promotional drive! Plus, my little city was having all sorts of festivities - music, massages, free snacks, free gift wrapping, and welcome mats in front of most of our amazing local businesses. So after we poked around at the farmer's market and then stopped off for some free popcorn and goodie bags, I bought the kid her big Hanukkah present - a wooden-and-felt toy salad set, because she loves to cook and to play in her toy kitchen and because the upscale toy shop was having a big sale on everything. I also bought my husband a small gift of a gourmet rubber tea infuser. It's super cute and he's quit the coffee habit and only drinks tea, so he was really excited about this one. (Yeah, they were both with me. I still made sure everything was wrapped so that we'll have the fun of unwrapping on the first night of Hanukkah!) And I bought a glass oil spritzer for me and my husband to share as well - a little bit of extravagance for our kitchen.

And I think that just about does it. Hanukkah starts on December 8 and so it's coming up soon and then, whoosh, it will be over...

Every single link in this post (except the 2XL link!) is a referral link that will give me a kickback of some sort if you click through and purchase something. I really appreciate it!

*I do spend my time to earn the credits on sites like Swagbucks, but I do the tasks while I'm taking care of other things. I consider the earnings from these activities to be "free" money as opposed to the earnings from my freelance work.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankfulness 2012

  1. I am thankful that my daughter now sits, stands, claps, is closer to talking than ever before, can take seven or eight unassisted steps at a time, is a speed demon in her walker, has adapted remarkably to her AAC device, and grows smarter and more gorgeous every day.
  2. I am thankful that my husband's amazing business - he's a voiceover guy! - has grown and thrived.
  3. I am thankful for new opportunities that have come my way in the past few weeks, giving me new challenges and, well, more money.
  4. I am thankful that our rather random move to Georgia years ago continues to be a good, solid choice for my family and that even with the unexpected things that were thrown in our path, it still works.
  5. I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people here in Georgia.
  6. I am thankful that I have stayed in touch with many wonderful people up North.
  7. I am thankful that Facebook - while it drives me crazy a lot of the time - exists and lets me keep in contact with all sorts of people from all sorts of periods in my life.
  8. I am thankful for my little blog because it gives me a bit of freedom to say whatever it is I need to/want to say at the moment. 
  9. I am thankful for my kitties, who bring me a lot of love and joy.
  10. I am thankful for you, if you're reading this, because I'm not, nor will I ever be, a famous blogger and yet you took a few minutes out of your day to come over here and check out my words. Stick around!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Today I Turn 39 - November 13, 2012

Today I turn 39. For real. The year of all the jokes. That big cliff over which I am staring. Supposedly this is the last age before, you know, the Big One.

"And I'm going to be 40!"

Well, someday is closer than ever before, but for now I'm 39 and I'm going to celebrate. And when I do turn 40, I'm going to rock the hell out of it because I do love a fresh start.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Thrifting Thrifting Thrifting - October 29, 2012

It's been a while since I had a day to run off and spend time with my friend Amy and hit a few thrift stores. Friday I was back in business! Well, er, except that you'll see that I didn't have a fantastic treasure hunt day - it was mostly kids clothes this time, with a few odds and ends thrown in.

I've found enough make-fun-of-bloggers sites to know that if anyone read my blog beyond the...three of you or whatever...I'd be on there instantly for the following really craptastic pictures, but I'm trying to silence that voice in my head and press on. Because...THRIFTED CLOTHES, right? Right?

We went to three stores but I only bought things in two. That's right - I walked out of one store EMPTY HANDED (except that Amy bought a rocking chair that is gorgeous and that kind of counts because I was there, right?). The first store was a brand-spanking-new Goodwill - so new that the bathrooms were not only spotless but fully automated. Stop giggling! This is important! The fitting rooms were also nice - I tried on a few things but nothing clicked for me, and as I've noted before, I'm not as thrilled with the GW prices as I used to be. But I found a bunch of things for the kid. All kid clothes cost around $3 per piece...

Cute cute kitty shirt!

Hanna! Too big for her right now but in perfect condition and adorable, so I'll put it away for next year. (I found another Hanna piece that was faded and worn, so no, I don't buy every single thing just for the label, I promise.)

Cute Old Navy sweater. I rarely find sweaters that aren't felted or pilly or just plain ugly, so I was happy. It's lightweight, but in Georgia that's usually juuuust fine.

Vitamins shirt. I *think* this is a department store brand, but I'm not sure. In any case, I liked the shiny gold and silver accents so I got it for her.

I tried to put this back a few times but it just was too cute, even if it's the wrong season for it

I also bought...stuff.

Perfection. Certificate-size frames for my Reiki certificate and my calligraphy Reiki symbols. These were about $1.70 each and exactly what I needed.

A combination of stuff from the GW and the Humane Society. The Fox Inheritance is a sequel to the Adoration of Jenna Fox - a book I really enjoyed. I plan to read it and give it away - I'm about halfway done. $1.50. Charlotte's Web was a total last minute impulse buy but I just love that movie so much I had to have it. $3-ish. The heart-shaped candy/baking tray was $1.10 as was the set of tiny Noah's Ark cookie cutters (a set I've considered buying at Michaels with a 40% coupon a few times). I may finally make the melted heart-shaped crayons I've had my eye on...
Then the Humane Society where, shockingly, I barely found anything! Oh well, that's how thrifting works, right? I bought the kid some clothes - 50 cents a piece....always makes me swoony...

Gap jeans and Children's Place leggings that are both too big but in such good shape that for 50 cents, I grabbed them.

Pretty purple skort (scooter?) that I hope she'll wear once or twice.

Peace, dude.
And a skirt for me that is ridiculous - short and tiny, but I thought it would be cute over leggings. Also I wanted to get SOMETHING for me and of the giant pile I tried on, only this kind of fit. $2.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Winners of my Purex contest!

The winners of my Purex contest are now displayed on the Rafflecopter widget in the original post - Ashley, Amanda, and Alison (hee), I will be in touch over the weekend so I can get you your prize!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Her Wicked Sense of Humor (and an AAC update) - October 25, 2012

My kid continues to make excellent progress with her AAC device. Nope, we didn't have overnight magic - I have learned not to hope for that anymore. Things take time, patience, energy, and...well...time time time. And time. But. She takes it to school every day and the teachers work with her to help her find words and participate in discussions. Her therapist is carefully leading us through the maze of how to use it, where words are, and how to help her communicate - and she keeps me in check when I want to move things along too quickly. (Plus her therapist is great at slowly unlocking more words/pages each week--she just added a hippotherapy page!)

At home, the kid uses it when she feels like it and doesn't when she doesn't (to mama's dismay - but I am learning to back off) but she does things like ask for milk vs. juice spontaneously, and she also has been sharing her excitement about an upcoming field trip. Overall, I am just thrilled with how everything is going. I'm so glad we went in this direction with this particular device! But...I want to fast-forward to mastery, as I always do, and I want to jump into sequencing, and...yeah. But when I step back and see how far we've come, I'm bouncing off the walls again.

Meanwhile, she is absolutely obsessed with me taking videos of her dancing. She will take her iPad and put on the song "The Sid Shuffle" from Ice Age 4 (they danced to it at school), carefully prop it up on the couch, step off the couch, and then whine and point until I get my phone out and film her. If I fake it, she knows. So I have lots of short videos of her dancing, falling, wiggling, whining, and more. Yesterday I caught what is probably my favorite, so I decided to share it here.

In brief, she notices her SMOs (ankle braces) on the floor, picks one up, dances with it while standing completely unassisted, and then tosses it aside. That little smirk on her face at the end kills me as my giggles probably reveal. I imagine her thinking, "Pssh. I don't need those, I stand and dance just fine!"

I will leave you with some referral links, if you have any interest in buying or clicking or whatever to help me out a bit...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Contest: Win a bottle of Purex - and maybe win $1,000!

As a Purex Insider, I get to try a lot of fun things (and host contests!). Right now I'm trying out the new Purex plus Oxi, which the company claims is "the most powerful Purex detergent available." I'll share my review of it soon. Meanwhile, you can win one of three coupons for a free bottle of Purex plus Oxi laundry detergent so you can try it yourself!

To win one of the three coupons, use this handy dandy Rafflecopter thing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest open to U.S. residents only. Contest ends October 26, 2012. Purex provided me with a sample of Purex plus Oxi so I could review it, but all opinions expressed on my blog are my own - obviously.

But wait, there's more! Purex is hosting a contest where the first prize is $1,000! ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS! Pretty sweet, huh? For that contest, you can enter right here or enter through the Rafflecopter widget! (Second prize is $25, which isn't $1,000, but it's not bad either, right?) You'd be doing me a huge favor if you'd click that link, whether you'd like to enter or not, as Purex is rewarding the Insider who drives the most traffic to the contest page with an extra prize. (Hooray, transparency!)

Good luck!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Our AAC Journey - It's here! - October 11, 2012

Let me assure you, although I'm sure you already know, that when you are the parent of a special needs child you NEED to be a squeaky wheel. Squeak squeak squeak! Several times now, we've been on a waiting list of some sort and I've called to follow up and because of simply calling, I've moved us up and/or just gotten us into whatever it was we were waiting on. I hate "bugging people" but I'm always polite and friendly and I just stay on top of it. I have to, even when I don't want to, even when the phone grows teeth and wants to bite me, even when my anxiety swirls. I give myself a bit of love and Reiki, I pick up the phone, I swallow the nausea, and I call and I call and I call.

The talker is just part of that long line of squeaky wheels. Because I was copied on a letter, I was able to make PDFs of that letter and forward them to the proper channels rather than waiting on said channels to receive their own copy of said letter, find it on a pile on someone's desk somewhere, open it, sort it, file it, think about it, and make a final decision. I really believe I shaved weeks off of our waiting period. And now here it is! She has it at school today for the first time ever!

Reality is sinking in now though. This is going to be a long, complicated road to learning how to use the AAC device daily, fully, completely. Despite the fact that my daughter has been using this device for a few months now, she's been using it once a week (and sometimes less, depending on our schedule) and in a very limited context. Now we own this and it's going to be with her all the time. It's not always the easiest system to use, even for me. But we will take it one day at a time, one word at a time, and I believe that soon - soon! - she'll be able to tell us so many things. And I can't wait to hear them! And having this device in our hands makes me so glad we went in this direction, made this choice. Plus, we have already noticed that over the past month or so, she's been saying more words in a clearer way than she was before - a credit both to her amazing speech therapists and to the device. I believe someday she won't need it at all. But someday is someday and now is now - and this is so good for us right now.

(For whatever it's worth, I've seen mockups of the next generation of these devices and not only would we have had to wait weeks or months to place our order but one of the new ones seems too small for my daughter's hands while the other seems too large. We would've made it work, but the one we have right now is baby bear's juuuuust right for now. We'll see what she needs when she's older.)

(Oh. And I am THRILLED that the SFY app lawsuit seems to have been resolved - that app may become a valuable tool for us either when my kid is older or if - heaven forbid! - her device breaks and we have a time period before we get a loaner/get her device fixed. I've been quietly but intently following that closely and I cheered aloud when I saw the post yesterday!)

So for now we're just playing around. I took my first crack at programming last night to update her school's name (her therapist didn't know it) and to add "Good Morning" to a topline level. Later on I'll start digging deeper into the programming - I have a list of things that need to be added either by me or her therapist. But I've found this part of the process, so far, pretty intuitive. I just have a lot to do since she's not yet at the stage where she could do it herself or just type things. (Teacher names! Therapist names! Friend names! Target! Raging Burrito! Signing Time!) (Favorite thing I stumbled on? The device has knock knock jokes and riddles built in. I have to teach her how to access those...)

ETA/Update: Yeah, her therapist just wrote me after I sent her a bunch of programming questions asking me very gently and nicely to please hold off on doing anything else and to let her handle it at first. I actually greatly appreciated that - while I kind of now get *how* to add things via the machine itself or the software, she knows what she's doing as to when to add what, where, how, and when! She's amazing and we are so lucky to have her on our team. So for now...I'm being as hands off as I can stand with this machine. Hard for me as I want to do everything Right Now By Myself but I trust the process and the experts too!

Here's a video of her telling us her name. For the record, she has been able to say her name for a while - but I suspect nobody but me would really understand what she was saying (Ryaoooo! Baaaah!) and now when we're at the grocery store or the park and someone looks at the sweet little girl and asks her name, she'll be able to reach over and answer loud and proud. This morning she also told me her favorite color is purple - while I didn't know this for sure, I had my suspicions, and as you'll see, we chose a purple edging for her device for that very reason. (It's so cool, you can snap various colors in and out, so if she's having a green day, we'll change that up!) Note: We were accidentally sent the wrong keyguard (45 not 60, I believe), so right now we're managing without it but hopefully we'll have the right one soon. She's doing pretty good without it though!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Our AAC Journey - Moving Right Along - October 2, 2012

First, my kid rocks at using a talker when she's at the therapist's office.

Sorry the video is a wonky size - I'll try to fix that sometime in the future.

Her therapist brought her out to us and had her ask for juice with her talker (well, the therapist's talker - I think that's a VL1 and my kid will have a VL2). If you can't hear it, it says "Drink" and then "Juice." Notice that while she needs a tiny bit of wrist support, she needs no guidance to find those buttons. Every time I watch this, I get chills - and further excited about how much more she'll be able to tell us soon. And then we had to model for her by answering using the talker and as you can hear, I didn't know what I was doing at all - so mama has to learn too. And I CANNOT WAIT. (Also, when she gets her very own talker, it will sound more like a little girl's voice, haha.)

Second, at school, she's using a very very very simple AAC device and is putting together two and three-word sentences consistently. Because she's a genius, obviously.

Third, this week after a few follow-up phone calls (I was procrastinating making one more and figured I'd do it tomorrow), I received in the mail the notification from Funding Source #1 that yes, they will in fact cover her talker! (Of course there's the whole "after deductibles and co-pays and whatever else we feel like saying you have to do" part of that letter, and they denied coverage on the carrying case, but I was expecting a full-on denial from FS#1 for various reasons, some obvious and some not so much, so even THIS was exciting!). Meanwhile, I was told by PRC last week that Funding Source #2 had already given its pre-approval. So it's covered - the funding step is OVER.

And that means HER DEVICE WILL HOPEFULLY SHIP SOON! (Next phone call today should shed some light on that bit.)

ETA: And indeed I have the confirmation emails now and it should ship by the END OF THIS WEEK!!!!


Everything is about to change for my daughter. And for the rest of us too.

Stay tuned!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Learning Reiki - September 24, 2012

I walk the line between believer and skeptic a lot of the time. I want to believe, then my rational side yells at me, then my spiritual side overrides it...back and forth, back and forth. Mostly I have to see/feel/experience something for myself to fully believe in it. This can hold true for anything from a medical treatment to a psychic experience to whether the latest smartphone really is teh awesome.

As for my feelings on spiritual/non-medical healing/treatments, chiropractic was my gateway drug, I think. In the early days of her life, my daughter not only didn't sleep through the night, she would wake up screaming for hours at a time. I absolutely honestly don't have any idea what was going on beyond that it might or might not have been related to her (hypotonic) CP. I'd nurse her and rock her and my husband would carry her around and eventually she'd go back to sleep. Her pediatrician didn't really see anything specific going on. I ran into someone on the playground one day who suggested a specific chiropractic office locally that worked with children - it was something I'd considered already, I just hadn't had time to fully explore my options (isn't that always the way when you have a special needs kid? "This sounds good - I'll add it to the list...") so I took her up on her suggestion. It did help, and after a few sessions just for my kid I stepped in and started getting adjusted as well. Long story short (another entry for another day perhaps?) we eventually stopped taking my daughter for a variety of reasons, and I took a break, but I'm back to getting adjusted when I can - and I see and feel the results.

From there, I started getting interested in Reiki. My dear friend Dana has her own Reiki (and reflexology and life coaching) practice and so I experienced a few Reiki treatments from her and also took my daughter for a few. I absolutely saw results with my daughter and felt results for myself despite not fully understanding how I could when all Dana was doing was placing her hands lightly on me - or not touching me at all. Yet I felt hot, I felt cold, and I felt relief from various ailments.

Two specific stories of how Reiki helped me and my daughter:
  • My daughter was having a playdate with Dana's daughter and freaked out completely into a tantrum of epic proportions. I held my daughter in my arms and tried in vain to calm her - and then suddenly, as if a switch had flipped, she stopped crying. I looked over and Dana had rested her hand lightly on the small of my daughter's back. That's all it took.
  • My undereye muscle was spasming for two weeks. Dana suggested a Reiki treatment and I thought, well, I'm not sure what a medical doctor could really do for me at this stage and this can't hurt, why not. Well after a single 30-40 minute Reiki treatment, my eye stopped twitching. Just like that. 
As I learned a bit more, superficially, about Reiki, I discovered that it was something I could learn to do myself for me - and for my daughter and my husband and our cats and our friends and family - with just a (relatively) short class that Dana taught. (As in, not months or weeks, but days. Hours even.) Teach a man to fish...right? So I saved up every dollar I made from my button/jewelry business for several months and eventually I had enough to take the class with Dana. (Note: It's actually a very reasonably priced course, but I had to shove it into an already bursting budget so that's why I took it slowly with the saving up.)

The class was split into two parts - three hours on a Friday night, eight hours on a Saturday. And it was simply incredible. Every time during the 11 hours that my skeptic voice would start to whisper, the experience I was having would roar loudly back at it. I received four Reiju and with each I felt...something indescribable happening to my body, mind, and soul. I learned the full history of Reiki and of Komyo Reiki Kai (the style I was taught). I was able to practice on myself and on my classmates - seated and on a table. By the end of the course I felt confident that I could share this new gift with the world.

When I give or receive Reiki, I almost always start off by thinking "nothing is happening..." and then moments later I feel it. My hands and arms feel hot or cold or just buzzing with energy. I usually get hot flashes throughout my body and I almost always end with a sweep of cold. And then, whether I've given or received, I feel better. I feel more peaceful. Aches and pains fade to the background or sometimes disappear completely. When my daughter is the subject, she calms. I tried it on both of my cats - the cuddly, snuggly cat purred and licked my arm (he never licks me), while the standoffish yet loving cat sat still and let me place my hands on him for longer than usual (he has a bad back leg from an injury as a kitten and I'm really hoping I can give him some comfort). My classmates say my hands felt cold or hot depending on where and how I was placing them - yet my hands don't change temperature at all. I love it. 

This post is me trying to make sense of this mystical Japanese energy healing art that still, sometimes, appears to me as nothing more than one person putting hands on another. Yet don't most people crave more touch in their lives? If the simple act of the touch is all that comforts someone, that's fine and logical to me. But it definitely feels to me like more. Like energy is moving and helping and reaching out for healing.

Dana explains Reiki better than I ever could. She's an incredible teacher and if you are in the Atlanta area and you're either seeking a Reiki treatment or you want to learn to do it yourself, I would not hesitate to recommend her services.

So now I am certified in the Shoden level of Komyo Reiki Kai. (I plan to take Chuden sometime in 2013.) I hope it can help my family to heal however we need healing. I personally believe - ME and NOBODY ELSE saying this and based on NOTHING BUT my own individual experience - that if you have a special needs child, you might want to look into Reiki and, if you have the time and money, you might even want to learn to do it yourself both for you as a caregiver (it helps with anxiety and stress...two things I have more than enough of...) and for your child. There are no known contraindications or negative side effects to Reiki that I've heard of/seen/been told about, and it can be shared with someone in a wheelchair or on a bed - the receiver doesn't have to concentrate or even actively participate (though s/he *can* push the giver's hands away or move away if necessary - my kid does both - she likes to put my hands on her head), the giver doesn't have to go into a meditative state or do anything particularly special or have any special equipment (I may or may not yammer through both giving and receiving Reiki, ahem - it still works). Worst case, it does nothing, right? But best case, it can calm and help the body to heal (although it isn't going to, say, magically cure my daughter's CP - nothing is ever ever ever going to do that, I truly believe it can help her body work to its full potential). Maybe just add it to your list of "Hey, worth a try!" things - my own personal list is a mile long. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Virginia Beach Thrifting - September 13, 2012

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Virginia Beach where I got to watch dolphins and stick my feet in sand. I also got to spend time with a dear friend and her family, and said friend and I snuck out to have some girl time and hit a thrift store. Then the next day my patient husband took me to two other thrift stores in the area. I didn't get to spend as much time in any of the three as I personally wanted to (um...hours....) but I still had fun.

I have said it before and I will continue to say it - Virginia Beach has some AMAZING thrifting going on. The prices are good but the stock is great. I suspect it's because so many military families move through and need to dump things quickly, but it could just be random luck.

Store number one was Goodwill - with a similar pricing structure as back home in Atlanta. So I wasn't particularly impressed with the deals on adult clothes but the kid clothes were priced better than at home PLUS I found a bunch of things left in the half-price color (here usually that color is picked over very quickly), so that was good. Everything below is for the kid and I am going on memory for prices... Not shown, 50 cent board book illustrating Polly Put the Kettle On.

Gymboree and way cute. I think this was a dollar.

I vaguely remember that this was full price and so...$2? 

I think this was also $2.

And these might've been a dollar. Maybe 2?
First store with the husband was the Disabled American Veterans store. It was chaotic with cramped racks - and I loved it. It seemed that clothes were a flat price within a category but that the store then occasionally would mark things down based on color/time in the store. Plus there were 99 cent racks within each category - sweet! I had far too little time in this store but I made the most of it. Not shown: husband bought the kid a basketball for 99 cents, and I bought her a hardback picture book by Lois Ehlert for about 50 cents (that she ripped during a tantrum, oy).

99 cents! NY and Co. This is very similar to another denim skort that I thrifted that I wear all the time, but it is a size smaller. I took a risk for a dollar. (No fitting rooms at the DAV.)

Cute owl shirt. 99 cents.

H&M top that I hope fits. $1.98.

For the kid (too big for her, too small for me, but it will fit her eventually). 99 cents.
And finally I went to one of the CHKD stores in the area. I had read mixed reviews of the specific store  we hit but I thought it was fine with a great selection and pretty good prices. Not shown: Frank Bruni bio for me for 99 cents and a copy of Z is for Zamboni to replace the one that the kid destroyed (perfect condition! I think it was $1.99 or something).

Favorite find of the day - Hanna Andersson skirt/skort in perfect condition. $3. Way too big for the kid but it will eventually fit her. Yesssss.

Talbots skirt was $3, marked down from $6. H&M top was $3. I think they go together and I hope they fit!
69 cent silly shirt for husband.
Someday I'll go to VA Beach and spend tons of time at thrift stores but I think I did pretty well for a quick dash...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

World Cerebral Palsy Day - September 4, 2012

Today, World Cerebral Palsy Day, I simply want to say thank you to the amazing people in my life who have been supportive, who have cheered the inchstones and the milestones, and who have been there for me and for my daughter and my (amazing) husband as well. I send you love, love, and more LOVE!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Thrifting - My love and my not-so-love of the game - September 3, 2012

A while back I took you on a tour of the thrift stores in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. I gave you my thoughts on the pros and cons of the major chains. Now I want to talk to you about why I thrift and my thoughts about that.

Awesome things about thrifting

+ The bottom line is that I can get an entire wardrobe for about $50. And by entire wardrobe I mean multiple jeans, pants, skirts, and tops. You know those commercials for that discount clothing chain that say you should totally brag about how little you spend? (I love those ads.) Yeah, I think the end result in those ads is WAY overpriced. Ha.
+ Within spending that $50 (or sometimes more ahem ahem), I can get high-quality clothing for myself. Name brands and even designer brands. Yes, I've gotten brand new clothing at thrift store prices, but it's usually clearanced/heavily couponed/sale-caught Target or Old Navy or the like. And I wear that all quite happily. But through thrifting I've found nicer, higher-end, better-made clothing for the same price or less. And sometimes it even has the tags still on it - or a dry cleaner's tag, which means at least it's recently been cleaned! (Usually if I am wiling to buy a dry clean only piece, it means it's amazing and/or that I'll just use an at-home kit on it. Usually.)
+ I find very unique items when I'm thrifting. Perhaps at one time the shirt or pants I buy from a Goodwill or Value Village was in fact hanging on a rack with 100 other similar items in all the sizes and colors one could create. But that's not the case anymore. And often I've found things that clearly were limited runs. And perhaps this isn't as great, but I find things that were brand new 10+ years ago and either are still in style, are about to come back in style, are timeless, or...are cute on me so I don't actually give a fuck. Not many people will be wearing what I'm wearing.
+ I have the chance to find stuff that fits me that was from a certain time period. For example, I know that a certain specific year/make/model of Old Navy jeans fits me very well and that perhaps the jeans that are in the store right now aren't the same. I can look for that specific year/make/model and scoop the jeans up when I find them - for $7 or less!
+ The thrill of the hunt. I just love digging through books, housewares, and - this is more recent - clothing to find treasures. The clothing love is really relatively recent. For most of my life I've felt awkward and, quite frankly, ugly. So I've been afraid to accentuate any of that and as a result I'd paw at the clothing briefly and then wander off to look at books or dishes or clothes for my kid. I feel like in the past year or two (yes, the weight loss helped, but that wasn't everything) I've figured out more of what I like and what I want to wear (skirts, in particular). So now that's fun too. Even if I walk out of a store with no purchases at all, I usually have had a good time with the process.
+ Kid clothes! Sure, I occasionally find grown-up clothing in high-end brands. But I find fancy kid clothes ALL THE TIME. Hanna! Mini Boden! Tea! Boutique brands! (And then a lot of Target/Old Navy/Gap/Children's Place/Carters - I buy that all too as long as it's not pilly or faded.) My kid is very well dressed - and I'm quite proud of that!

Not-so-awesome things

- I can't rely on thrifting for everything I wear. I personally don't thrift undergarments. I look at the shoes but unless they're OMG amazing (that hasn't happened yet but I haven't given up hope!), I don't buy thrifted shoes because my feet fit things funny. On the other hand, thrifting does free up my clothing budget so I can spend more on these things.
- Two words: Vanity Sizing. I am intimately familiar with that now. The range of sizes in which I fit is wide and I can no longer trust labels, just use them as a guide. I have to try pretty much everything on - even in clothing that I know fits me in a similar style/make/model. While this is true with all clothing, if you're buying new you can start to figure out how a brand's sizing runs - harder to do with older styles, random brands I've never heard of, and so on. I recently had two almost identical skirts from an identical brand in an identical size in the fitting room with me - the only thing different was the color. One color fit beautifully. The other was too small, tight, and short. So when a store doesn't have fitting rooms, I have to take big risks - sometimes that pays off, sometimes it doesn't, and long ago I used to wear black tights under long skirts and pull things on in the aisles...
- If I find that one perfect item that fits like a dream in the perfect color, well, that's pretty much it. I can't buy five of that thing in case I stain or rip it - and, er, I do both things ALL THE TIME. That whole one-of-a-kind thing isn't always ideal.
- So I have this whole....issue with driving. I plan to blog about that in depth very soon. But in any case, I have limited my ability to go shopping, which is both great (I could be VERY DANGEROUS if I went thrifting as often as I'd like to) and also really shitty (I can't go most of the time unless someone goes with me). On the other hand, I LOVE shopping with friends and HATE going alone - when I go alone into a store I usually leave it again very quickly - so it's not all bad, but it does mean that I've relinquished control.

One thing I'm neutral on is the desire to have new things. Having a brand new item of clothing is nice and fun but it's not something I crave or need or feel sad about when I don't have it. I usually find much more of a selection of Things I'd Actually Wear at a thrift store than a mall store anyway. Plus I'm being all green and stuff, saving clothes from the landfill, reusing, recycling, all that jazz. SEE MY HALO?

Oh and I do periodically clear out my closet/drawers and re-donate (or occasionally re-sell, depending on the situation). When I lost all the weight, I had a lot of fun doing both things. I am not a hoarder, I promise. I swear! I'm not! For realsies! And so on.

I think the pros far outweigh the cons. Do you thrift? What do you think? What are your personal pros and cons? And do you want to go shopping with me sometime?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Our AAC Journey - The Beginning - August 31, 2012

At the beginning of the summer, my daughter's amazing speech therapist (we'll call her M) sat us down and told us that she felt it was time to start exploring AAC devices for my kid. And we were all more than ready to accept this challenge. My daughter's speech has come so far in the past three years since she's been working with two very wonderful speech therapists (before M there was L, and L was also excellent). We actually understand many words now and on occasion a few multi-word sentences. My daughter also has signs - and she has started using her iPad to communicate in a very unconventional way by rejecting most of the free versions of the speech apps that I put on there to try out and instead using certain other games and apps to tell me what she wants. For example, she puts on a game about a monkey who eats fruit when she wants fruit, tapping insistently on whatever fruit it is that she wants (oranges, grapes, apples...) or putting on an app that features songs and scenes and insistently pointing to the scene with the ocean and the octopus while saying words like "water!" and making signs for swimming, pointing to herself and then outside...all while I was saying back "Yeah, well, it's cold. And the pool is closed. And NO WE ARE NOT GOING SWIMMING RIGHT NOW."

So you might say to me, Marla, your household has an iPad? That's great! You've got the technology already in hand. You're done!

I wish it were that easy. I have a few issues with using the iPad as a speech device for my daughter that are, I'm pretty sure, unique to our situation - I WISH this was not the case, and I suspect it will change as she gets older. But for now (she's 5), the problem is how stubborn she is with the iPad. She uses it as she feels like using it and she refuses to use it for just one application. Even at the new therapist's office (I'll get to that in a minute), she took an iPad she was handed that was fully loaded with a speech app and she looked at it, laughed, and immediately found the music, the games, and the other apps loaded on there. It's a very useful tool for her and for us in so many ways, just not this one.

So. We started seeing V and then S within a practice that is dedicated to all things AAC - it's their speciality and they are the best of the best. And it has been incredible. First we ran through all of the usual evaluation hoops - and my kid rocked them. She went to the smallest level of squares on a page and still was able to find spots within the grid. She sorted things into categories with ease. Every step of this process was met with smiles and cheers. She impressed the therapists over and over and over. It felt good to see my kid succeed when so many times evaluations are full of me making excuses or just being kind of frustrated.

We tried out different devices including the aforementioned iPad, the Dynavox, and the Vantage Lite2 (and one other that is lesser known but that we didn't care for so I'm not going to get into it). The Dynavox was really shiny, and the therapy practice said that almost all of the kids they see use it. However, they just didn't feel that it was the right choice for us, which surprised all of us (I really walked into that office thinking OK, Dynavox, that's it, end of story). The therapists said, among other things, that the number of options that my kid would need on a single screen would max out quickly with the Dynavox - and that the VL2 would offer that extension. Also we all agreed that we liked the VL2's language system better for her. Plus, the VL2 was lighter weight, had a well-placed handle (important for a kid who can almost kinda sorta walk-ish) and had fewer bells and whistles (give my kid a camera and games and Internet access and we're back to the iPad problem). So we chose the VL2. It just felt right.

And then I got a call telling me that while it wasn't public information yet, the VL2 was going to be discontinued shortly in favor of a newer system. So we put this all on hold for a week while I waited for news - or at least a press release - that never came. And waited. And waited. And was sad that we were so close and then, as always, an obstacle was thrown in our path.

At last we went to the therapist and said look, we have to move forward. We just can't wait. What do we do? And we talked it through and weighed several options (go with the Dynavox after all? wait? see if we can get a used machine? talk to the wonderful local support person about all this?) and eventually we all agreed that the VL2 was still the best option and that really, if you're getting involved with technology, you could kill yourself chasing after the next newest option. My kid has the iPad2. The iPad3 came out soon after - what am I going to do? Nothing. The iPad4 probably will be fancypants. I could never keep up. Technology is changing month after month, year after year. It's just a fact.

FINALLY the official statement from PRC was shared with me and then became public shortly thereafter - and it is that the VL2 is being discontinued because of a part issue. I think that because I knew this was coming, the blow was softened once it finally happened (because I was pretty much crying when I got the very first call about this). Also, PRC isn't taking away its support of the system, it's just not making any new ones. I have high hopes that the next generation of product that it releases will be even better. I will have a pang of sadness when that happens, wishing that we could have just waited that much longer to have that shiny new thing, but we couldn't. The right thing for us for now is available and therefore it's the thing that we're pursuing. And there is the hope that we'd get approval for a new machine before the magical five-year-window expired if we needed one because the case would easily be made that the machine we had was actively discontinued.

I am BEYOND excited and thrilled that in a few short weeks (because this is a done deal, the paperwork has been submitted and is moving along even as I type this) my daughter is going to have a new method of communication. And I am also so so so thankful to M that she put us in touch with V and S who are going to be holding our hands - literally and figuratively - every step of the way, teaching us how to appropriately use the machine, how to program it, how to maximize it for my daughter. I'm also thankful to our local PRC rep who has been open and honest with us and who is going to help us teach others around us about this system, and I'm VERY thankful for a school system that is full of excited people eager to reach out and help my kid. (They've been working with her with very basic AAC devices since she started preschool.) I couldn't do any of this alone and I am very lucky to have a supportive team surrounding us.

And so we wait. And I will write a new post when we have the device at home to let you know how it works out for us.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Random Roundup - August 21, 2012

  • The kid's school year continues to go very well. Yesterday when we picked her up, her teacher said she'd been dry all day. I said, "Oh, great! So when do you think we can ditch the pull-ups?" She said, "Um, you did. You sent her without one on today..." Indeed, my husband had done that by mistake - but she ROCKED it. In fact, she stayed dry for about 24 hours. So today we tried again. And sent her with extra pants, undies, and pull-ups. I really think she can do this! Her biggest obstacle is that she can't get up and walk to the bathroom or say, clearly, that she has to go - but she can actually do both in her own way, she's physically capable of being potty trained, and she's just so damn smart... We're on our way!
  • Today I believe we will be signing the final paperwork to be submitted so that she can be one step closer to getting her AAC device! She's had two therapy sessions using it now (everything up until two weeks ago was evaluation vs. actual therapy) and she is doing incredibly well with it. I just cannot wait until she can communicate more clearly with us. Her speech is getting better and better, but her frustration level is at code red -- so this is going to be excellent.
  • There is an exciting new resource for vegetarians (me! lacto ovo me!) and vegans in Atlanta - the Crack the Plates Atlanta Vegan Guide! It has a listing of every vegan, vegetarian, and vegan-friendly restaurant and grocery store in the general Atlanta area. It's a work in progress, so feel free to submit suggestions (I submitted Radial - and look, it's there now! whee!). I absolutely love how veg-friendly Atlanta has become. I've eaten at or shopped at many of the places on that list, but there are so many more to explore!
  • I have a new Tivo and it is ridiculous how exciting I think this is. Tivo made me an upgrade offer I couldn't refuse ($50 for Lifetime Service on the old box, free wireless adapter, multi-box discount, and Hulu Plus for 6 months) so I went for it. Plus my old box's dual-tuner functionality was messed up because of some changes to our cable service, and I missed being able to record two shows at once... If you're wondering "But Marla, how do you afford such frippery?", well, we don't pay for cable - it's part of our condo fee - so this is very worth it for us, although I am waiting for the first post-Tivo cable bill because I think we have to pay a bit extra for the new HD service we now have. ANYWAY, I caught up on Grimm, I'm now watching Community, and I just love how HD TV looks. Yes, I love TV. I admit it! I do! I am looking forward to the new TV season cranking up - in particular, I'll be watching Revenge, Once Upon a Time, How I Met Your Mother, Hart of Dixie, MAYBE Revolution, Grimm, The New Normal, American Horror Story: Asylum, and...probably whatever else my Tivo can hold. 
  • Speaking of gadgets, yesterday I ordered a new cell phone. We use Virgin Mobile, so our monthly bills are really cheap. The first phone I bought was $50 on Black Friday and was totally good enough for what I needed - but of course I craved an upgrade. So I saved up every $5 Amazon gift card I earned from Swagbucks (referral link!) as well as a few GCs I earned elsewhere and some extra dollars I earned around the Internet. That plus the phone being on sale meant that I was able to buy a $200 phone for $30. HTC One V, I can't wait to get you! I also went on eBay and bought a new case and screen protector, but I'm really hoping the phone will squeeze into the jogging armband I already own.
  • I'm back to running. My back has been hurting, so I haven't pushed it as much as I'd like, but I am trying to run at least 20-25 minutes a day, three days a week. My new goals is to eventually be able to run a 5K without walking at all. I am inspired by Sheryl Yvette and her ability to run 15 miles without walking. If she can do that, I can do three. I CAN. 
  • I'll be introducing Kari Chapin, author of the excellent Grow Your Handmade Business (referral link!), at the Decatur Book Festival in a few weeks. VERY exciting - can't wait to meet her and hear her tips for crafters like me! Also hoping to catch Dame Darcy, Kevin Henkes, Patrick McDonnell, and Leela Corman, among many others. Wheee!
  • That about sums it up, I think.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Handy Dandy Guide to Thrift Stores and Thrifting in the Atlanta, Georgia, area - August 8, 2012

I've now been thrifting in Georgia for about eight years (yikes!) and I feel like I can now speak with a tiny bit of authority on the subject. Or not. Hey, if you know more than me, have more info than me, or can help me out, please comment and/or link me to your own blog post about thrifting in Georgia!

(Did you see what I did there? I hope you didn't, but if you did, know that it was totally shameless. OK? OK.)

So here are my thoughts on the major thrift stores in Georgia - particularly in the Atlanta-ish area, but not confined to ITP because I actually do way more thrifting OTP anyway. Again, feel free to chime in in the comments about what you think!

Let me start off by telling you what my dream thrift store would have (while being realistic - I mean, of COURSE I want it to all be free and vintage and in perfect condition, but I'm more talking about the store I'd walk into in reality and dance in). This way you'll know my biases when I get to the specific stores.

+ Fitting rooms
+ Large selection
+ No stinky smell on the clothes, either from body odor OR from some high-intensity fumigation chemical
+ No stinky smell in the store, either from babies or adults or just general unclean conditions
+ A clean atmosphere in general - not one that makes me feel like I need a bath in Purell after I'm done shopping
+ Excellent prices topping out at, let us say, $5 for an item of clothing and $2 for a book of any type
+ Clothes sorted by size! (Yes, there are stores that do this. It's awesome - although never ever trust the store's system because people move things around all the time!)
+ No counter behind which are hidden things that both have value and that don't and those things between there that appear to have value but don't (knockoff designer purses, for example - I promise you that 90% of the Dooney & Bourke purses you find in thrift stores are fakes). Ugh. Ridiculous.

Again, all commentary below is about my experience in Georgia. I have had different experiences at the very same chain stores in other states (Massachusetts and Virginia are two where I've done pretty extensive shopping as well). So take that into consideration as you read.


+ Excellent selection overall of everything under the sun
+ Often can find high-end or middle-end name brands, not just Target/Walmart/Kmart stuff.
(I'm guessing this is because Goodwill is such a known name that people are more likely to donate it there?)
+ Stores are usually clean
+ Fitting rooms
+ Weekly half-price color
+ They're everywhere and they're usually in strip malls with other stuff so that your husband and/or children can go elsewhere while you shop, if they so desire (or is that just mine?)
+/- They are *sort of* careful about their tagging with the little plastic pieces and *usually* don't make holes in important parts of the clothing
- They sort the clothes by color, not by size
- Everything in a clothing category is a single price, with no variation, so unless you hit a half-price color there isn't a chance for a super great deal (The good part of this is that there's no "this item has no price tag so you can't have it" policy - and housewares are priced by the piece)
- The prices are jacked up. I know they are a charity. I know they have overhead. I know they are often found in real shopping plazas and that they need to pay the bills. I don't care. Paying $7 for a pair of used jeans kills me! And paperback books for $1.50? They used to be 75 cents! I'm stubborn! 

Value Village

+ Very good selection - the stores I frequent have great kid clothes and great jeans almost every time
+ Very good brand availability
+ TWO weekly half price colors
+ Monthly half-price-everything day - the last Wednesday of the month (yes, it's chaos that day, but also the deals are plentiful and I haven't felt it was ever all that picked over because it's a weekday)
+ Items are priced by piece so you have a great chance to find a bargain (and I still haven't figured out how they come up with the pricing - the phase of the moon? The person on pricing duty? No clue.)
+ CDs are 80 cents, which is cheaper than a single-song download (selection is pretty bad, but I've found a few gems in there)
- Stores are often sketchy and chaotic - and a bit out-of-the-way from the main drag
- No fitting rooms (though they do have a return policy - 7 days, tags still on, receipt in hand, you get store credit that you can use at that moment - which isn't bad if you live nearby or go regularly to the VV) 
- Clothes are sorted by color rather than by size
- They staple the fucking tags to the clothes and make holes and often ruin really amazing deals. This is my number one peeve at Value Village. I have seen so many things be ruined! Ugh.
- They write on their books, and sometimes it can't be wiped off or removed

Salvation Army

+ Pretty good selection - though it always seems to me like the clothing skews older/frumpier
+ Fitting rooms
+ Items priced by piece rather than by category so you can dig out good deals
+ Prices are reasonable though housewares seem overpriced to me and the pricing on everything is random
+ Half-price color of the week
+ Weekly half-price clothing day - every Wednesday
+ Great prices/selection of DVDs (I just learned this! $3 for a new DVD works for me)
- Our politics do not mesh in some areas (ahem)
- Their prices are sometimes ridiculous
- I find a higher percentage of ripped/stained/unusable clothing on their sales floor than at any other store, and this has been the case at three different SA stores that I've visited in the area
- Books are too expensive unless you hit a sale

(I don't get to St. Vinny stores as often as I'd like - feel free to help me fill in this list!)
+ Nice selection of quality clothes (but all the stores I've been in are small, so it's limited)
+ Great prices on books (and I seem to remember they have a half-price book day every week)
- Stores are small
- I don't remember the prices being that great

+ Half-price everything every Monday (CHAOS though)
+ 75%, 50%, 25% off colors every week
- Stinky and dark
- Overpriced, even on half-price days
(I live near one of these and I rarely go unless I am in the mood for chaos. I did find an amazing vintage ashtray there once though! I also accidentally bought a glass that had a dead spider in it...)

I of course have my secret indie spots that I'm not going to tell you about right now. The thing about independent stores is that they are absolutely hit or miss and you are always taking a chance. Some indie stores are absolutely amazing, some are ridiculous. Some have pricing that makes you do twirly dances in the aisles, some make you roll your eyes. You just have to walk in and see what you see. 

What do you think? How's the thrifting where you live? If you live in Georgia, do you feel similarly or radically different? Are there chain stores I've forgotten? Do you want to tell me about your super secret shopping spots? (oooooh!) Leave a comment!

Coming soon, a post about my personal loves and hates about thrifting!