Archive of ‘blogs’ category

Onions. We’re all onions.

Disclaimer: I am fresh off of being an audience member in Glennon Melton’s presence (of Momastery fame.) So I am borrowing a few of her insights with you, and not claiming them to be mine at all!

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Glennon. In all her petite, wise, spunky glory.

I just spent a while trying to find references to Momastery in my early blogging days and I couldn’t find the one post I wanted. Probably because I am just so savvy with this technology that I lost the post in the transfer from Blogspot to WordPress. Sigh…. Anyway….

When I was a new mama, at home, delirious from sleep deprivation, and feeling lonely even with my beautiful baby in my arms- I found refuge in her writing.  This post in particular put in words how guilty I would feel when everyone would say that I should soak in every moment, that time is going to fly, etc etc. When in reality, time was CREEPING by because of the awful anxiety I was feeling and the guilt that came with not being gosh darn happy enough! Hormones are awful awful things. Thank goodness they eventually even out. front

She inspired me to change my blogging efforts to be more honest, more raw, to put my true feelings out there- however scary, ugly, and real they were.  And in doing that, I have received a much larger response from readers.

And this is why.

Yesterday Glennon said something that made so much sense to me. So basic, so black and white, so simple. Yet, I had never really thought about it before.

There are a lot of very lonely people out there. People who have big beautiful families can be lonely. People who live by themselves can be lonely.  People who work in bustling offices can be lonely. People who work at a computer screen all day can be lonely. Glennon said that we all like to stay on the surface with our discussions. Talk about counter top materials, where do we take our children to the doctor, our feelings on the latest big reality show on Bravo, etc. Those conversations are necessary. They keep us moving along. They are safe, easy.  But what we don’t realize is that if you go down, really deep down, strip past the superficial layers and get to the real heart of each person- we are all the same. We all struggle with addiction, depression, anger, envy, lust, self loathing, fear, grief, you name it. You won’t find a person who has not been faced with something Hard in their lives. And when we get down to that layer, and we share those experiences, all of a sudden, we can’t feel as lonely anymore. It is just logical sense. You feel lonely because you think your problems are so big and so heavy and no one could possibly understand them. But the truth is, there are plenty of people. Plenty of people who have hit rock bottom and lived to tell the story. Plenty of people who have watched others hit rock bottom and stood by them faithfully while they picked up the pieces. Plenty of people who are still struggling and continue to put one foot in front of the other because that is all they can do. Our stories are unique to us, that is true, but there are common threads that are undeniable. 20150221_124143

As a 37 year old (almost), I find myself feeling much less lonely than I did at 21 when I had the rest of my life ahead of me.  I think one of the biggest reasons is that I am far more honest with myself and with my loved ones. I am still a HUGE work in progress, but I’ve come a long way from that young girl who felt unworthy of love. Both Glennon and a dear friend of mine said yesterday that they do not feel ashamed of who they are, their faults, their struggles- they own it, and they feel comfortable putting it all out there. I’m envious of that total lack of self judgement. But again, I’m working on it. As I am sure they both have had to in their lives. Remember, therapy, it’s a beautiful thing. Gift certificates should be available.

Am I right?

Wished I could just sit down and chat with her for hours.

Wished I could just sit down and chat with her for hours.

 

Finding your inner Orange Rhino

Recently I was randomly selected by a fellow blogger (of whom I greatly admire) to read and review her brand new book, Yell Less, Love More:How the Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids – and How You Can Too!  Needless to say I was geeked to be chosen, being that I am a little bit of a superfan of Sheila McCraith, the original Orange Rhino.

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What is all this Orange Rhino talk you ask? Well here is Sheila’s explanation in her own words, but to sum it up, Orange Rhinos are those of us who are determined to parent well and effectively without resorting to anger and yelling. (as often as we can, while admitting that we are very human and it is WICKED hard.)

Sheila’s book did not disappoint. It is very much like her blog, in that it is honest, raw at times, funny, and downright smart.  She offers up her own accounts of times where she fell victim to her own “stuff” getting in the way of her patience which would then result in yelling.  When you read her book, you feel like you are sitting across the table from a fellow mama friend who is telling you her story in confidence.  But lucky for us, she is sharing it with the world!

Some of the best parts of the book are the tip boxes at the end of each section.  The tips are not only sensible and helpful but they are actually doable! They are not hippie dippie “make love not war” type suggestions but instead, practical, concrete things you can try to avoid blowing up at your children.  The more tools you can store in your toolbox against anger, the better prepared you are!

By far, my favorite part of the book is the section on “why” we yell.  This really hit home.  I thought about times where I snapped at my son, or snapped at one of my students for not following directions.  Just as Sheila mentions, nine times out of ten, I did not snap because of what my child did, but more so because of myself.  I am the one who is tired, emotionally exhausted, frustrated from my work day, suffering from PMS, hungry, you name it, I’ve been it, and it absolutely affects how you react to your children.  Which is why I feel the awful guilt after I do blow up, because I know it is not really because of what others have done, but what I am being affected by in that moment.  Just identifying your triggers, and realizing when you are in a more vulnerable state (not enough sleep, rough day at work, etc.) can help you be prepared for when you feel your face getting hot and your heart starting to race.

Definitely get out there and buy Sheila’s book, Yell Less, Love More, and take the pledge to stop yelling for 30 days.  You might be surprised at how much you learn about yourself through her words.

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Less yelling, more this…..

And……………..

Sheila has given me a copy of her book and a goody bag to give away to a lucky reader!

Check it out!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I didn’t sign up for this-My Messy Beautiful

I loved Punky Brewster growing up.

Punky Brewster

Who wouldn’t want to be as cool as this chick?

So much so that I would wear a bandana tied around my knee and I wished my name was Soleil or Moon more than once. One particular episode remains emblazoned in my mind. The “Very Special Episode” surrounding the exclusive club, The Chiclets. Click HERE to see them in all their scrunch sock glory. You can watch the first minute or so to get the idea.  The Chiclets were this “totally awesome” group of stylish sixth graders that Punky was dying to be a part of.  Turns out that they are “like totally” into drugs. Specifically “grass, a few uppers, and some nose candy.” Pretty sure  I had no clue what any of that was when I was eight years old.  Of course, Punky decides that she does NOT need to be a Chiclet and that she is much better off following Nancy’s Reagan’s advice and creating a “Just Say No” club.

I may or may not have created a similar club with my best friend on the second grade playground that met over by the see saws.

Erin and Charlene second grade

(around 1986) I was probably wearing this awesome floral romper as well.

Clubs. Secret societies. Exclusive groups with super cool people in them.

We have all wanted to be a part of one at some point in our lives.

As an adult I have realized that I have been thrust into several of these clubs without my permission.  Hoodwinked you might say.

The sudden loss of a parent club

The parent of a child with special needs club

The multiple miscarriages club

I don’t think a super cool gal like Emily with her charm necklace and pastel sweater came up to me when I turned 30 and said, “Hey, Erin, wouldn’t it be great if you joined our club? You know, the one where all the members have lost a parent before they could become a grandparent to your children? Do you want to join the club where all the members have suffered more than one miscarriage?”

I think I would have remembered that.

So here I am.  A member of several clubs.  Ones I would never have asked for membership.

But something crazy has happened.  The messy, beautiful person I am today, would not be nearly as messy, and nearly as beautiful if not for being a member of these clubs.  And not just because of the circumstances that led to my membership.  Not because I lost my father without warning almost 4 years ago.  Not because I have lost two babies before I could even meet them and hold them in my arms.  Not because I am the proud mother of a little boy with Williams Syndrome

Happy mower

President of my club

Because of the INCREDIBLE club members I have been so privileged to meet.  Because of the women who have become my friends. My sisters. My guides through this brutiful life. I would never have started blogging if it weren’t for my membership.  I would never have met some of the most amazing women who I can reach out to any time of day or night and I know they will “get it.” I don’t have to explain what it feels like to wake up in a sweat because I dreamt about my father again.  I don’t have to feel guilty when I message one of them to tell them I am feeling super overwhelmed by the prospect of Evan starting preschool with his school district peers.

I laugh with them.  I cry with them. I spit nails of anger with them.

They somehow know me without needing to have been in my life for years and years.  Some I have never even met in person.  Some I did meet and it felt like they were a member of my Just Say No club on the playground in second grade.

I would never have met them if I had not gone through some of the most painful, difficult, and life changing events of my life.

Just this weekend I had the absolute privilege of attending a brunch for mothers of children with Williams Syndrome. It was like taking a deep breath of fresh air for 4 hours.  I laughed, I cried, I listened and I shared.   We have had Evan’s diagnosis for almost two years now, and there were some mothers with very newly diagnosed infants at home.  I could see the fear, the pain, the hope in their eyes.  And for once, I actually felt I could speak from experience and maybe even ease their worry a little.

Because of the pain, the struggle, the worry I have felt, I can support others who are going through similar experiences.  One sweet mama told me that my blog actually helped her see a future for her daughter, helped her to see past the colicky, sleepless nights that are her everyday right now.  Tears immediately came to my eyes.

BOOM.  Kairos.

There it was, the reason I started blogging. To help others who might need a voice, who might need to feel less alone. And to think that might actually be happening? Phew.

Thank goodness Emily in all her pastel scrunchy glory did not ask me to become a member of any of these clubs. Because I would have just said no.

(see what I did there?)

Sometimes we do not get asked. And we feel very angry about that.

Ahem….We meaning me of course……but maybe you are angry too?  and that is more than okay, it is right and totally warranted. But I am just so glad that I can pull myself out of that murky angry place and realize that other women need to hear that it CAN be okay.  You CAN lose a parent and wake up one day and realize it is not the first thing you think of. You CAN raise a child with special needs and see joy and beauty time and time again.  Miscarriages do happen and they suck big time but you are NOT alone. There are so many women who have walked your path and would love to walk it with you. Or kick rocks. Or drink wine, whatever works.

I have plenty of women who did all of those things with me, and continue to.

I’m glad they are in my club. Maybe you are too?

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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Emotions, Own them, Use them.

I was given the distinct honor and pleasure of guest blogging over at Mommy Mentionables  today.  Melanie’s site is helpful to new moms, seasoned moms, and bloggers looking for tips and ways to improve their sites.  Please take a second and check her out! Tell her I sent you! 

  “Don’t feel guilty for loving the things you love about your job. Don’t feel guilty for missing him. Use up all the emotions. Own them, use them. They will steer you correctly.” – Obi Wan Jamie

Williams Syndrome
When we met IRL for the first time June 2013

So I have this friend. This AMAZING friend Jamie. We met on this fancy thing here we like to call the internet.  We met through a support board for families of individuals with Williams Syndrome. Her daughter, Norah, is about 4 months older than Evan and I just adore her. We have gotten to know each other through Facebook private messaging, text, and phone calls.  Whenever I am feeling doubtful about something, or I am worried about Evan’s development, I don’t google it, I send Jamie a message.  She is one of those people who just “get it.” And not only does she “get it,” but she also gives incredible advice that sounds like it should be coming from a woman far beyond her years.  I call her Obi Wan on the message boards because her responses to posts are always so thoughtful and…well, wise. Can’t think of a better word for them.  
Last week I was having a moment (one of many) where I was struggling with the idea of going back to work.  I messaged Jamie in a moment of panic and told her I was starting to crumble.  She got back to me and part of what she said was the nugget I opened with:  
 
  Don’t feel guilty for loving the things you love about your job. Don’t feel guilty for missing him. (my son) Use up all the emotions. Own them, use them. They will steer you correctly.

Getting in good cuddle time


I have heard over and over about how working is a part of who I am. Being a teacher is sort of part of my genetic code, as much as missing the elastin gene is part of Evan’s.  I have felt that myself at times when I missed standing up in front of a classroom.  I actually think my true love is theater, children’s theater primarily, and being a teacher is sort of a form of that.  (sometimes….) But since staying home for the extra year with Evan, I have become very comfortable in my role as mother, therapist, housekeeper, paperwork filler-outer, etc.  I like being the one who knows the most about Evan.  It feels right somehow. But we also knew as a family that I needed to go back to work for financial reasons currently and in the future.  
Hence the transition period we are currently in.   But what Jamie said felt so incredibly helpful to me.  It gives me permission to feel sad when I walk up the ramp of his school on Tuesday to my car and feel the sting of tears that I know will come.  To feel exhilarated when teaching a new skill to my students in a few weeks and knowing they are “getting it.”  To feel anxious when I think of Evan taking a nap on a mat for the first time, and wondering how he will do with the other children, will he interact? Will they be frustrated by his speech patterns? Will they love him?  Permission to feel excited to see the students I left for maternity leave as second graders who are now fifth graders.  To feel comfort in the hugs of my staff family who have gone through what I am going through before.  
I like that concept. Owning my emotions. The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Own them and use them.  Use the sensitivity I have as a mother of a child with special needs to better understand the parents of my students.  Use the sadness I feel from missing Evan eat his lunch or play on the playground to be a better mom to him when I DO have time with him. Make it count.   Love what you love and miss what you miss.  It is all part of the package of being a working parent.  Hoping I can heed my own advice in the coming months. 

"It’s a Major Award!"

“It’s a major award!”

I seem to have received the Liebster award. 

Yay!


 A fellow blogger, Blaine Turk, nominated me for this awesome honor. This award is given to bloggers, by bloggers.  It’s purpose is to encourage new writers with a small number of followers to continue their blogging.  Blaine was extremely sweet and said she appreciated my honesty so she nominated me. 

So the way it works, in order to accept the award, you have to write 5 interesting facts about yourself and nominate 3-5 other blogs with less than 200 followers.  

So I will nominate first, then share facts second.

1.) Star in Her Eye. Heather writes primarily about her daughter, Fiona who has a rare condition called Wolf -Hirschorn Syndrome. My favorite post of hers is here. She has such a gift of expressing her thoughts on the page.

2.) Natalie Falls.  I think Natalie might have more than 200 followers, but I can’t find the list on her page.  But I have been following Natalie since I started blogging and I adore her blog. Her writing is simple and powerful. And I love her photography. My heart is full after I read her entries. 

3.) Williams Syndrome Smile. The author Vanessa is a friend of mine who I met through our online WS community. She was apprehensive about blogging and I encouraged her to grab her computer and do it!  I am so glad she did, because hers is one of my favorite to read.  I think you will agree.

4.) Love the Blink You’re In. I met Ashley once IRL once, at a local MOPS meeting back when she was feeding both of her girls bottles in their car seats on the floor.  I remember thinking, what a pretty girl with beautiful babies. And I bet she is more tired than me, but she looks great! 🙂 Her blog is also beautiful and upliftin.  She writes in a really lovely prose and who can resist her edible little girls?? Our children are only a week apart so it is fun to follow their stories.  

5.) Brewing and Chewing. Since there are no “official” rules to the Liebster, I had to nominate the husbo.  As his other half, I know very well how incredible his mind is. He is always thinking, dissecting, pondering.  And his blog is a reflection of the journey his thoughts can take.


Please take the time to check out these bloggers, I promise you won’t be disappointed. 

And……
5 interesting facts about me:

1.) I belonged to American Coaster Enthusiasts  as a youth.
2.) I can’t bend my right pinkie finger due to a kick ball injury.
3.) I played Calamity Jane in my fifth grade play and my mother made my whole costume.
4.) I can quote the majority of the movies The Parent Trap and Splash.
5.)  I have lived next to Philadelphia my entire life and I have never sat through one of the Rocky movies.

If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

Facebook….What if?

I will be the first person to admit, I love Facebook.  Before having a smart phone, I would turn on the laptop in the morning and sign onto my email website and Facebook.  Like clockwork.  I would look anxiously with excitement to see how many notifications I received overnight.  Did anyone “like” my new pictures from vacation?  Did I receive any new friend requests? Did my friends upload pictures from our night out last week?  What is taking them so long?? I would drink my one cup of coffee, eat my egg white in a mug breakfast and read my facebook notifications, before leaving for work. 
Then motherhood came along.  I still managed to sneak in time to check it.  Now it was more about posting picture after picture of our newborns squishy face. Then I started to pull away a little.  More because of sleep deprivation and because I had to use the lap top to check it, and I was constantly attached to a little person and that made it difficult.  When I did use it though, I remember feeling ravenous for the contact, to check in with my friends and family and see what they had been up to.  
Enter the world of smart phones. I fought it for a long time, saying, “I don’t want to be constantly connected. I don’t need anything but the ability to text and call.”  But as time went on, my phone was deteriorating  little by little, until it barely worked at all.  Somehow I made the decision to get the Samsung Galaxy, the first one they put out there.  I had Facebook on it as an application,  but I didn’t get notifications automatically…..
At first…
Yep, it only took a few weeks before I added that little feature. 
So then I am spending my days sitting in on therapies with Evan, taking him to music class, reading books, cutting his food up into miniscule pieces…and intermittently checking my phone to see if I received an email, text, or facebook notification.  

Then this lovely little nugget went viral:
How to Miss a Childhood by Hands Free Mama.

A good reason to have my phone outside. Good photo opps.

Ouch. More like, OUCH. It hurt to read it.  Because even though I know in my heart I am a good mom for Evan, I know he is well taken care of, I also know that habits can start at any point.  He could be observing my habits at any age. I could see myself in some of the points in that post. I carried my phone with me room to room.  I would bring Evan into the backyard and my phone would be by my side if not in my pocket, if not in my hand while I pushed him on the swing.  I would do an activity with him and immediately pick it up following the activity because that is just what I did, it helped me feel “connected” to an adult world that I felt a little isolated from as a SAHM.  

I have had small squabbles with the T man over his phone usage in the past, and I realized I was such a hypocrite.  Why would I judge his pulling his phone out often when I was doing the exact same thing.  
Then  the other day I read this article on a friend’s Facebook page. (Go figure.)

Now, just so you know, before I go any further. I am not quitting FB.  I have become fond of blogging, and I know FB is a great way to share my entries, and I also have made some close friends through the WS support boards. AND…..ifi’mbeingtotallyhonestIcan’tquit.
But….
The article about the REAL reason to quit just spoke to me.  The “What Ifs” were the most profound.  I am going to copy and paste them here because I feel like they are really important.
 Quoted from The REAL reason to quit FB by Matthew Warner
What if…

  1. What if the next time I have 5 minutes in line at the store, instead of checking Facebook, I strike up a conversation or a smile with the people around me?
  2. What if the next time I have 2 minutes at a traffic light, instead of checking Facebook, I say a prayer to the God of the universe?
  3. What if when I have a 15 minute break during the day, instead of checking Facebook, I put some time into planning a meaningful evening with my wife?
  4. What if when I have 30 minutes before bed, instead of checking Facebook, I read a spiritual masterpiece that changes my life and the lives of those around me?
  5. What if when I have my lunch break at work, instead of checking Facebook, I strike up a meaningful conversation with a co-worker and ask them about their life?
  6. What if when commercials come on, instead of checking Facebook, I jump on the floor with my kids for an impromptu wrestling match?
  7. What if the next time I get an hour on the weekend to relax, instead of checking Facebook, I put on some amazing music and get lost in its beauty?
  8. What if the next time I feel like spending 20 minutes crafting a silly status message that will surely garner lots of *likes* on Facebook, instead I spend 20 minutes writing a personal note to somebody I care about?
  9. What if the next time I meet somebody new, instead of immediately looking them up on Facebook when I get home, I embrace the adventure and mystery of getting to know somebody new by actually spending time with them?
  10. What if when I finally get the kids to bed, instead of checking Facebook, I stop for a few still moments just to watch them sleep? And then pop open a bottle of wine with my wife?

end quote

So I decided What If I tried this?  What if I put aside time of the day where I can and cannot check Facebook, and I make a deliberate, conscious effort to keep a little less tethered to my phone altogether. I started a few days ago, and I only allow myself to check when I wake up in the morning before E gets up, during his nap time, and after he goes to bed, but not when I am spending time with Todd.  We have been known to have the television on, watching one of our favorite shows, with both of us staring at our phone screens.  I want to change that, not just for us, but for Evan. I don’t want him to think we are more interested in what is on our phone screen than what is going on right in front of us. It has been really interesting.  At first it felt a little odd, like I was forgetting to do something important every few minutes. (which also made me realize I was far too addicted to it).  But after a few days, it really does feel good. Evan walks up to me with a book in his hand, and before I might have had my phone in my hand and I would finish whatever I was doing and THEN pick him up.  I noticed several times over the last few days, I was already there ready and waiting for him, no hesitation.    

Mama, does it really matter if people “liked” your status update?

 Again, I am not writing this to be self righteous and preach against Facebook.  I dig it.  I dig it hard most of the time.  But I think I have realized that I was using it during times that I didn’t need to.  Maybe you are too. Maybe you aren’t. Maybe you don’t even like Facebook.  Maybe this whole post makes you feel better about yourself because you never got into Facebook and you think it is a waste of time.  But stop for a second and think about your  technology use in general.  Think about what you could be doing with your time otherwise.  It might help to keep things in perspective.  
Now off to eat a snack and check my notifications…. (because Evan is sleeping and Todd is not feeling well so he is resting.) I have my own permission! Sigh…..

I’m a work in progress…sue me.


If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

Sharing some Bloggy Love

 Hi gang! 
(that is what my elementary school gym teacher Ms. Atwell would call us, it’s catchy, right?)

 I thought it was a good time to share some of my favorite blog entries that I have read over the past month or two.  I have become engrossed in the blog world and I have learned so much from other bloggers. It seems fitting that every few months I share what I have found amusing, educational, touching, you name it.  
Enjoy! Be sure to leave supportive comments on the blogs and tell them I sent ya! 
1.) Love That Max: Getting Sucked into Special Needs Parent Self Pity I just love Ellen, the author of this blog.  She writes with humor, honesty, and a lot of very helpful knowledge.  This particular entry reminded me that we are all human, and it’s okay to have pity pot moments, but we just have to make sure not to stay there.
2.) Star in her Eyes: You’d Never Know. This eloquent blogger has two beautiful daughers. One has a rare condition called Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome. She blogs about life with her first daughter and beyond.  This entry really hits home for me, she discusses the way that people often address her after finding out that Fiona has a genetic condition.  That she “looks normal.”  Such a harmless phrase, but it can mean something very different to a mama of a child with special needs.  
3.) Andrew Solomon’s Ted Talk: This is not a blog per se, but a 20 min talk that hit me so hard. Just really made me think about acceptance, differences, prejudice, how I treat and look at others. Do yourself a favor and carve out some time to watch it. 
4.) Brewing And Chewing: Big Brother Motives. The husbo wrote a really great piece that somehow ties together the reality T.V. show, Big Brother, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and Williams Syndrome. He truly has a brilliant mind, that is not just the wife speaking. 
5.) Williams Syndrome Smile: In Love.  This is written by a friend of mine. Her daughter has WS and had major heart surgery in May. This entry just makes my heart full, as she discusses her love for her daughter and how it has changed into something amazing. 
If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

When It Just Isn’t Fair

I was going to post a video of Evan standing on his own for a little bit, and share about some of the fun things he has done this week.
And I will. But not today.

Today I want to honor a friend and her sweet family who have become a part of my daily life as well.  Her name is Kate Leong, and I have shared several of her blog posts with you already.  She is the author of Chasing Rainbows. I have been following her family for a while now. I connected with her a few months ago when I reached out to her and thanked her for the post, Dear You. She wrote me back personally, which I was shocked by, and we started an email correspondence. She is truly a remarkable woman, amazing really, but at the same time, a regular mom doing what she can to take care of her family the best way she knows how. This past week her son Gavin was admitted to the hospital and within a few short days, was in very serious condition due to several major cardiac events.  They do not know yet what caused all of this.  I have been thinking of them non stop since she first posted about the first cardiac arrest. I have been lying up at night thinking about them sitting vigil next to their beautiful son.  This is one of those times I wish I wasn’t so darn sensitive. Because then maybe I could be like my level headed husband and realize that he is going to be in Heaven, with his siblings and that his parents will be with him again one day. Instead, I sit here crying, feeling pain in my head, my stomach and heart, that Kate and her family have to say goodbye to Gavin, a true inspiration.  
Just look at this face:

I have not been able to look at a picture of him without immediately smiling back at his kind eyes and smile. I have gone through the whole “life is precious,” “enjoy every moment” process many times throughout the past few years.  But for some reason, it doesn’t get any easier, each time a beautiful soul is lost.
I pray that Kate and her husband will feel carried by their family, friends, and God. That they will know they are not alone. They are far from it. And Gavin is the furthest from alone.
Thank you, Kate, for your honesty, for sharing this difficult week with so many of us. Like my husband said, your post today was hard to read, but encouraging.  You wrote an encouraging post when you are facing the most incredibly heavy burden I can fathom.  That speaks volume of who you are, and who Gavin helped you to become.
Gavin, I miss you already, without having ever met you in person. I had hoped that Evan would get to meet you one day and you would smile and giggle at each other.  One day you will.  In the meantime, he will continue to watch your Bruno Mars dancing video and sing and dance along.

Hanging with Hanen

Visit HERE to see the program I reference in this blog entry 
(Disclaimer-Please read this with the understanding that I did not attend an official Hanen program or become Hanen-certified. This was just a small workshop to focus on the basics for parents of children in the Early Intervention program)
Evan….is………………………..COMMUNICATING!
Many of you are probably thinking, well duh. He has been for a while, Erin.  Ok, so yes, I have been really excited about the times he has repeated “whee” and “mama” and how he has started to consistently complete parts of songs when we sing to him.   He has started to take turns when we play and will take our hand to “show” us when he needs help.  Until last night, I wasn’t really allowing myself to celebrate all the great ways that Evan communicates non-verbally.  I have been so hung up on helping him to use language spontaneously and use signs when he cannot tell us what he wants. 
But he HAS been communicating, just not in the way I thought he should be. 
Oh shoulda coulda woulda, right? Silliness. He already is!
My friend Karen signed Todd and me up for a Highlights of Hanen workshop through the Early Intervention program in our county. It is two nights, and free! Last night the speaker said we might even extend it to another night because there is so much valuable information to share. She likes for parents to be able to go away and process what they have learned and then come back after trying it out at home.  I borrowed the book by Hanen, “It Takes Two to Talk” from a WS Mama. I have read through most of it, and I had been doing a few of the things I had learned in the book but had not seen much progress with Evan. I am not sure if it was because I was not using it correctly or if Evan just wasn’t ready yet.  I knew the basic philosophy behind the program- that in order to help develop your child’s speech and language skills, you need to sloooooooooow down and really pay attention to your child. I had started to give more wait time and babble back to Evan using the sounds he was using. 
But I wasn’t really really paying attention to Evan’s attempts to communicate with me. I thought I was, but I know now that I can do a much better job.
In the first ten minutes of the in-service, I already felt myself beaming inside, while I thought of all the ways that Evan does communicate with us on a daily basis. Through eye contact, reaching, hand over hand showing us what he needs or wants, and using approximations of words, like “Ahh” for Dada and ooooo for go.  She talked of how it is possible for a child to be still developing their motor planning skills that are necessary for speech. And if that is the case, a child just might not be ready to say a word, even though you think he understands it and should be able to. I realized I have been waiting and waiting for Evan to clearly say Hi, but he has been, he just doesn’t say it in the clear way that I was waiting to hear. And in the meantime, he is using something like, “Ha!” which is just fine! It is more important to move in the direction of talking, I can’t pull a word out of him.
Here are some of the basics we learned (as interpreted by me):
  • Learn all the ways your child communicates with you already, nonverbal and verbally. Make sure to celebrate those ways.
  • Create opportunities for your child to communicate with you. Examples: put a loved toy out of reach, hide the cookie, give him or her an empty cup when he/she is expecting a full cup of milk.
  • Give choices
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. Try to say a word 5 times before moving on if your child has not said it him or herself. “Wow, that is a funny duck. Did you see the duck? The duck quacks. Yellow duck! Squeeze Duck.”
  • Let your child lead: Observe their behavior, what are they looking at? Do they want something? 
  • Wait expectantly with wide eyes, leaning forward, showing interest. Count to ten internally. It is a loooong time, but children process at much different rates than we do. You might see the wheels turning during that wait time, and it is pretty great when you do. 
  •  Say less. This was big for me. If you haven’t noticed, I am a bit long winded. But children, especially littles- can only take in so much. You do not need to embellish. Your child drops their cup- “Uh oh! Cup on floor. Mama pick up cup.” 
  • Take breaks in between phrases and watch your child. Is he engaged? He might try to pipe in with something, do not interrupt him, let him speak!
  • Stress the important words. If you want your child to learn the word “big,” make sure to say it louder and longer than the other words being spoken. “Wow, that is a BIG ball. It is so BIG!
  • Speak using words that you want your child to use. Speak in the first person. If your child is crying, say, “I’m sad,” or “I’m drinking milk!” (this was a tough one for me to grasp but the speakers both said that children up until about age 3 or 4 hear our words as the ones that THEY want to say.)
  • Slooooooooow Doooooooown. Remember your child is hearing a lot of these words for the first time, and language is  still very new. They need time to process before they can begin to try to communicate in return.
Next week they are going to focus on book reading. One thing I started doing, which was much different from what I had done as a teacher, babysitter, and daycare provider; was to have Evan face me when we read a book. This way the reading experience is shared. He can see my facial expressions, and watch my mouth to learn positions for sounds. This way you can see what your child is interested in looking at as well. I didn’t realize how some pictures made him smile or cock his head to the side with interest. Those are opportunities to engage with him and see if he will communicate with me about the pages he likes. I still have him face out from me sometimes, because that is good snuggle time for us, and if he really likes the book read to him, he will lean against me and get really comfortable. I won’t give that up completely. 🙂 
So why was this morning so particularly amazing to me? Here are some highlights.
 I got him out of the crib, picked him up and he leaned on my shoulder, which he does most mornings. I said, “Awww, hug…..hug……I like hugs.” Then he looked at me and I said, “give mommy a hug?” and he did it again. This was not totally out of the ordinary but then when we got downstairs and sat on the couch together, he sat facing me and I said it again, and he leaned his head right against my chest. He has never done that before! I kissed him and he put his hand out and I kept saying kiss, and he would put his hand back up for another one. Then I tried the “give hug” again and he leaned his head against me again! So it wasn’t a fluke! I noticed he was staring up at the window where the light was coming in. So I watched him quietly for a bit. I said, “light?” And he got excited and looked at me and grunted. I pointed at the window and said, “light?” and he grunted with excitement again. Then (this is the exciting part) he took my hand, held it up to make me point again towards the window. I realized then, he wasn’t looking at the window. He was looking at the light switch on the swag. So I pointed, and said, “mommy turn light on?” and he started jumping in my lap in excitement. So I turned the light on and he squealed. I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it. 
We had a whole conversation.
Without words of course, but I knew what he wanted, and he knew how to show me. 
Amazing.
I need to point more often. I think I have in my mind that children with WS talk first, point second- so I haven’t been pushing it. But it helps Evan to “show” me where he is looking. 
I apologize for the super long post, but I know a lot of my friends on the WS Support Board are looking to learn from the information we gathered at the workshop. 
Um so did I also mention that he will sing a little part of Bruno Mars, “Locked out of Heaven?” He and I danced together and he only held one of my hands. My heart was singing. I have my new friend, Kate Leong of Chasing Rainbows to thank for that. She posted a video of she and her sons dancing to the song and Evan (and I) could not get enough of it. Here is a little clip of E joining in with my Bruno jam.

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