Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Song Name That Tune... a hint

Several guesses so far, but no one's gotten it right.

How about a hint?

Musicians that have recorded this particular song include The Captain and Tennille, The Beach Boys, The Drifters and my favorite version that was done by the Muppets.

Seriously now, that's a total giveaway, even if you don't have access to my iPod's holiday music playlist................

Answer later tonight - somebody's gotta guess the Tails!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Name That Tune: Christmas music edition

I've always loved Christmas music. Over the years, I've had an extensive collection of Christmas albums, first on vinyl, then cassette, then CD and most recently on my iPod. Kiddo, therefore, has been exposed to Christmas music as much as a child can be from her very first year on Earth.

By the time she was two and a half, Kiddo began having favorites among Mommy's vast catalogue of holiday tunes. She'd even begun making requests. One wintry afternoon as we were driving about running errands, Kiddo piped up from the back seat where she'd been rocking out to the strains of one of my eleventy million and twelve holiday CDs.

"Mommy, play Tails, peese!"


Hubby and I looked at each other blankly. Tails? What the heck did she mean by Tails? We conferred, trying to come up with the song Kiddo wanted. We had nothing. We began forwarding through every song on the compilation CD that had been playing when she made the request. She was quite insistent. "Peese play TAILS! I want TAILS!" We kept going through the CD, but none of the songs was the one Kiddo was waiting to hear. We reached our destination without ever finding the mysterious Tails song.

This continued for another two weeks. Every time I had Christmas music playing, Kiddo would ask repeatedly for Tails and we hadn't the slightest idea what song she wanted. We asked her to sing a bit of it for us, but as you can imagine, at two and a half, what she came out with was pretty unrecognizable.

Finally, one afternoon just a few short days before Christmas, Kiddo and I were out with her godmother when sure enough, Kiddo began yelling for TAILS! PEESE PLAY TAILS! I explained to her godmother (also my BFF) that Kiddo had a specific song in mind but that we had no idea what song it was. Her godmother was intrigued and totally up for the challenge, and began the arduous task of playing snippets of every single song on every single CD I had in the van and asking Kiddo "is this it? Is this Tails?" as Kiddo vehemently rejected each song.

Until............ we found it. We found Tails. We found Tails and we subsequently listened to it over and over and over and over again. All the way on the 6 hour drive to NJ that year, we listened to Tails. All the way home again, too. Kiddo was so, so happy to *finally* have her favorite Christmas song (that year) and she would sing along cheerfully and enthusiastically. While out doing some last minute shopping, it came on at some store at the mall, and Kiddo freaked out. "They're playing TAILS!!!!" Oh, the joy of Tails.

By the next holiday season, Kiddo had moved on. She no longer loved Tails above all other holiday songs. That next year, she was all about Dominic the Donkey. Now, at the ripe old age of six and a half, Kiddo is able to play Christmas CDs in her room all by herself, or to dial them up on her iPod, which is even better since that involves headphones (unless she's using my iPod speakers). She can listen to Tails or whatever other song her little heart desires as many times as she wants without driving her father and I to distraction trying to play Name That Tune.

Think you can guess the song that Kiddo called Tails? I'll post the answer tomorrow...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

As a photo-obsessed mother of an only child, I have, over the past 6.5 years (6.5 years *today* actually!), taken many, many, many pictures of Kiddo. Over time, certain traditions developed. There are the typical ones - Kiddo with Santa, Kiddo with the Easter Bunny - and then there are the ones that might be a bit more unique to our family.

Case in point: Tom the Turkey. Tom is a Thanksgiving centerpiece that my aunt made (along with matching Thanksgiving placemats) and gave to Hubby and me back when we were still newlyweds, in anticipation of the first ever Thanksgiving dinner that Hubby and I were going to have on our own. (Hubby worked in radio back in those days, and living where we were in the Middle of Nowhere, NH, it was impossible due to his work schedule and the distance to get back to NJ for Thanksgiving dinner with the family.) On a side note, my aunt had brought this little craft project with her as she, my uncle and grandmother went on their annual Leaf Peeping tour through New England, stopping off that year to visit us since we were then living smack-dab in the middle of their tour route. She was finishing up Tom in a hotel room prior to their arrival at our house, and ran out of stuffing for him. So, apparently Tom has an extra souvenir inside him to remind us of our time living in NE and that particular visit: some washcloths from a hotel in White River Junction, VT. I've never cut Tom open to verify the tale, but I do think of it each year when I take him out of his storage box...

Now, flash forward almost a decade. Kiddo joins our family and at the age of six months, is celebrating her first Thanksgiving. In a moment of inspiration, I plunked her onto the couch and set Tom the Turkey next to her for a photo op.

The following year, I did it again. And thus, the Turkey Pic tradition was born.

It wouldn't be a very good tradition if I didn't keep it up over the years...

So, it seems only fitting to share the latest of the series "Child with Turkey" (snapped just this morning!) as my way of saying Happy Thanksgiving with you all now!

Hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday, and if you are not celebrating Thanksgiving today 'cause you're not here in America, well that's no reason not to pause for a moment and think of those for whom and that for which you are thankful, right?

Now, it's time to turn the oven on.........

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In lieu of ranting and raving, some humor

Oh. My.

I am so, so, so, so, so furious right now. Almost beyond words. I am fairly certain I could shoot laser beams from my eyes if certain members of Kiddo's CSE team were standing in front of me right now. The new levels of asininity that have been reached in the farce in which we've been forced to engage in order to maintain Kiddo's services have left me gobsmacked, utterly dismayed and stressed beyond belief.

I could rant and rave for paragraphs and paragraphs on the topic, but I'm choosing to let it go - for now. Nothing can be done until Monday and we have a holiday coming up. While it isn't going to be the Thanksgiving we'd envisioned (my sister, brother-in-law and nephews were supposed to be coming up from Jersey, but due to H1N1 in their house, they can't), it still is a five day period in which our family of three will be home together. So, I'm choosing to take deep breaths and try to forget about the hell of the last two days at least until I am able to pick up my sword and battle ax and resume the fight next week.

So, in lieu of another diatribe from me on the idiocy that exists in the world of Special Education and the unconscionable acts that are required by the adults therein, all supposedly in the name of helping the children with disabilities, I want to share this with you. A friend had linked to it on his Facebook page and I came across it while ferociously typing out infuriated status updates earlier this afternoon. It cracked me up, and as a fan of both the Muppets and Queen, I can't not share it with you now.

So, please enjoy the following cover of Bohemian Rhapsody:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Five words

10) Other health-impairment means having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that is due to chronic or acute health problems, including but not limited to a heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukemia, diabetes, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or Tourette syndrome, which adversely affects a student's educational performance.

including but not limited to. Five words that are at the heart of a big issue.

When we moved into this new school district back in May, Kiddo had an IEP in place which classified her as a student with a disability, Other Health Impaired. The paragraph at the beginning of this post, taken from the state IEP guidelines, is the one that describes how a child can be classified as "other health impaired" and therefore receive services through an IEP.

(Side note, because I'm angry and bitter right now: I cannot begin to tell you how many people, including several people that work for this school district, have told us how lucky we are to be in this school district and how grateful we should be for being able to partake of this wondrous, super-awesome school district. I can't italicize enough to convey the tone with which I type this, but suffice it to say I am not feeling particularly lucky or grateful right now.)

Kiddo's old school district classified her as "Other Health Impaired" for her SPD because there is no specific category for SPD as a classifying disability. (Things like autism, deafness, emotional disturbance, learning disability, visual impairment and so on all count as their own qualifier. OHI is meant to catch the rest of the disabilities that do not have their own qualifying category.) The old school district read that paragraph that stipulates what counts as OHI and chose to include SPD because of those five words "including but not limited to" and all was well. Kiddo was granted the services she needed to succeed in the classroom, most importantly the aide to provide her sensory diet. (Yes, yes, getting the old school district to follow through and be in compliance with the IEP was a major battle, but at least we had the plan written and signed.)

The new school district? The one that is so awesome and the one that we are so damn lucky to be in now and for which we should be so grateful? They are choosing to ignore those five words. To disregard them completely. They have stated in no uncertain terms their intention to declassify Kiddo and therefore discontinue her services and IEP at the next CSE meeting on December 3rd. They say that SPD doesn't "count" as a qualifying disability, because it doesn't appear in that list. Furthermore, SPD isn't yet included in the DSM, so they say that means they don't have to count it.

But, but, but........ they really do. They do because of those five words. "including but not limited to" means that they can't limit what counts. That's our position, anyhow, and we plan to fight. Kiddo's SPD is a chronic health impairment. It does result in a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli. It does impact her ability to function and succeed in the classroom.

There are alternatives to the IEP. Implementing a 504 plan has been suggested. Not just suggested, but hailed as the shining beacon of perfection that will be the savior of all this mess. Except... a 504 plan doesn't give a child an aide. Aides (or "paraprofessionals" as this district calls them) are only available through an IEP.

Like that? Like how they're telling us we can have the plan that doesn't guarantee the services she needs, but that she doesn't qualify for the plan that does guarantee the services she needs, and yet they acknowledge that those are, in fact, the services she needs all at the same time?

Kiddo is smart. She's extremely capable of learning in a general education classroom setting and has consistently worked at and usually above grade level. She's a happy kid, well adjusted and with good self esteem and lots of self confidence. She has many friends. She is well liked by her peers. She enjoys school greatly.

If the CSE pulls her services and removes her aide and her sensory diet, that will all change. Kiddo will not be able to succeed in the classroom. She won't be able to focus adequately if her sensory system is disregulated, which it will be if she doesn't have the support in place. She will fail. She will suffer. She will lose friends, self confidence and self esteem. (We've seen it happen before, at the first preschool Kiddo attended. It took time to get her back to normal, to have an unstressed, happy kid, and that was preschool. These are much bigger stakes now that she's older.) We've been told that if (or really, when) that comes to pass and Kiddo fails, we could then go back to the CSE and say "See? She's failing!" and then maybe they'd be more amenable to giving her an IEP and reinstating the services they took away. Hubby and I do not intend to let it get to that point.

I think I need to go bang my head against my old friend the brick wall.

The CSE team wants us to agree to declassify Kiddo and to pursue the 504 plan. They're promising to give their best effort to arrange for services as best they can through the resources available at the school. (In other words: no guaranteed aide who has been trained in how to meet Kiddo's needs and supply the necessary sensory support as demanded at any given time.) We have said that this is not good enough. Not acceptable. We say Kiddo needs an aide. (They don't disagree, you'll recall.) They say that to have an aide requires an IEP, which they say Kiddo doesn't qualify for - unless, of course, we can come up with another diagnosis for her that would automatically qualify, like ADHD, in the next two weeks and show sufficient documentation to support that other diagnosis.

Oh yeah, you can bet we're going to fight this. Tooth and nail. We've already contacted a special education advocacy agency and are going to be strategizing like mad. We're also considering our route of due process in terms of appeals, mediation, hearings. We will fight this, because Kiddo needs the aide for her sensory diet. The thing that kills me is that no one, not a single person on the CSE, says otherwise. They all seem to be in complete agreement that she needs the aide, they just say she doesn't qualify.

We've got five words that say otherwise. I just hope we win.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Class picture day

Kiddo lost her first top tooth yesterday. Well, it wasn't so much lost as finally gave up its struggle and allowed itself to be wrested from her gums. The tooth in question had been sorta loose for a long time, then really loose for a few weeks, and by a week or so ago had moved into ridonkulously loose and yet still hanging on by one stubborn, jagged bit and was giving Kiddo the appearance of some sort of hillbilly yokel of possibly British descent. It stuck out between her lips when her lips were closed, y'all. It was nasty. Sadly, Kiddo has teeth as stubborn as she is - none of the five which've left her head thus far have come out easily. There is adult assistance required each and every time. Two of her teeth came out at school, so I was not the adult providing assistance for them. That was delightful. The other three, sadly, have been home removals, requiring my help. (Hubby utterly refuses to lend a hand in this realm. Seems like a "dad" thing to do, but he won't. Humph.)

I was more concerned about this upper tooth than I'd been for any of the lower, because "hillbilly yokel of possible British descent" is not the look I was hoping for in this year's edition of class photos, which are being taken today. So yesterday, when Kiddo came downstairs after sitting at the breakfast table and wiggling her tooth instead of eating and said "Mom, I think it is ready to come out" I snatched up a Puffs Plus, wrapped it around the tooth and prepared to yank for all I was worth. Seeing that gaping hole in her gumline where Cletus the Slack-Toothed Yokel had been dangling was totally worth any screams, I tell you. (Okay, fine, all screaming was done by me - I'm not a fan of doing anything that draws blood out of my child. Most of the time.)

With her newly remodeled upper jaw, I scrubbed, brushed, dressed and fixed Kiddo up for school today. New dress, new tights, non-sneaker type shoes and new hair accessory to match the outfit, she was ready to go.

The bad news is, today is actually "make up" picture day. The original class picture day was the day Kiddo had her eye surgery. So, we've got one shot at her picture this year. In previous years, we've been lucky. Kiddo's photos have come out well. I think this is because I never had anything less than a wonky, terrible school picture myself in my school picture career, so School Picture Karma therefore dictates that Kiddo should only have phenomenal pictures for her entire school picture career. Right?

When it is actual class picture day, the teachers do their best to keep the kids calm, quiet and clean. Not so much for make up day. Children are rounded up and taken to the auditorium at any point between 10am and 1pm according to the flyer that came home about make up pictures earlier this week. If her picture is at 10am, we should be okay. If it is closer to 1pm, all the karma in the world isn't going to help. With P.E., lunch and outdoor recess on the agenda, I'm pretty much guaranteed to get back a hideous picture this year, especially since we don't have a chance to retake them because this is the retake day.

Stay tuned for further developments............

Sometimes Mother Nature can be a real B----

So we have this tree in our front yard that I've nicknamed the Leafy Bastard. It's a silver maple and it is huge.

The plus side of having a huge silver maple in the front yard is that we have some lovely shade in the summer months, something we never had at our old, virtually shadeless house. The downsides of having a huge silver maple in the front yard include the helicopter seeds that come down in massive quantities for weeks and weeks in the spring, followed by a summer's worth of bird crap all over the driveway (and anything thereupon) and what has happened over the past month. The shedding of the leaves.

Now, having a virtually shadeless yard up until this point in our homeowning lives, we never had to deal with leaf collection and removal. The two ornamental pear trees and one tiny maple at our old house only shed a minimal amount of leaves that were easily mulched in with the lawnmower. Not so the Leafy Bastard.

A few weeks ago, I attempted to rake the seventy-six squillion leaves that LB had dropped all over the front yard.

My next door neighbor kindly lent me her gas-powered leaf blower, and I had a fair amount of fun blowing the leaves towards the front of the yard before raking them to the curb. The residual effect of not being able to feel my arms from the elbow down after leafblowing with such enthusiasm for over an hour was a small price to pay. "Hey, leaf removal isn't so bad!" I thought to myself. Kiddo definitely thinks it is a grand, old time.

So, happy with the leaf containment I had achieved, I congratulated myself heartily on a job well done. Then I woke up and looked out the window the next day. Leafy Bastard had decided to mock my earnest efforts by dumping another seventy-six squillion leaves on the front yard. I'd have thought I dreamed the entire leaf-removing experience except that my ginormous pile was still there at the curb and the blisters were still all over my hands. (Yes, I wore gloves. I shudder to think what my hands would've looked like if I hadn't.)

It wound up taking four full leaf blowing/raking events over a three week period to get the majority of the leaves to the curb. Leafy Bastard. If you think I am being unduly harsh to ole LB, let me tell you this. It turns out that leaves are a serious allergen for my poor,beleaguered eyeballs. All that leaf work culminated in my eyelids swelling to the size of golf balls and my eyes feeling as though they were being stabbed by red hot pokers, along with my vision degrading to the point that I felt like I was seeing the world through heavily Vaselined lenses. I would've taken a picture to show you, but my eyes were getting really sensitive to the light too and I didn't want to kill them with the flash.

After a few days of worsening eye problems, I took myself over to the eye doctor to get 'em checked out. Sure enough, the icky eye disease I dealt with two years ago, GPC, had reoccured, and I also have some SPK going on, and the combination of the two has made a hot mess of corneal badness. (Google the abbreviations if you must, but do so at your own risk because they're both really icky.) For the record, things you don't want to hear while at the eye doctor include "Wow, it looks like someone took sandpaper to your corneas!" and a general sucking in of breath in horror as he gazes in the other side of the machine you're holding your eyes up to for examination. Now I'm back on eye steroid and antibiotic drops and off of my contacts while my corneas heal.

At least this gets me off of leaf-removal duty for the rest of the year. Did I mention we have another huge, leafy silver maple in our back yard?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Not Really Even Mostly Wordless Wednesday: Whatever you've got on tap...

Our crazy cat has a drinking problem. Her problem, specifically, is that she won't drink just any old water. She prefers to drink from a running source. Now, this was kind of cute at first, the way the tiny kitten would jump into the bowl of the sink when the water was on, but we still tried encouraging her to drink out of a plain, old water bowl just like every other housecat in the world since practically the beginning of time. She clung fast to her peculiarity, stubborn as she is, to the point of constipating and dehydrating herself. Seriously. Following the vet visit during which we learned that no, apparently she wouldn't just drink from her bowl when she got good and thirsty enough, we trotted ourselves over to the pet store and acquired one of those fancy-shmancy, "water fountain" style water bowl gizmos, complete with carbon filter for the purest possible water. The whole set up, plus the ongoing cost of the replacement filters, was not cheap. Hubby grumbled a good deal about it, but we didn't want Crazy Cat getting sick from lack of water.

Well, Crazy Cat didn't like it any more than the non-fountain variety bowl. Nope, apparently *running* water wasn't enough for her, it has to be running water from a tap somewhere in the house. In our old house, we left the sink in the vanity area of the master bedroom on a slow drip. (Sorry, environment and yes, it did affect the water bill, but we didn't want the cat to dehydrate and get sick.) In the new house, I'm happy to say, we've worked out a slightly different system. We don't leave any faucet running 24-7 like we did in the old house. (Yay environment and yay lower water bills!) Instead, when the cat wants a drink of water, she asks for one and we turn on the tap. Her favorite tap in the new house is the laundry room's utility sink.

She'll hop up onto the edge of the sink or the washing machine and meow quite dramatically until one of us responds and turns the tap on for her.

You can't just turn it on, mind you, it has to be done to just the right amount of water pressure. It is a delicate art.

Crazy Cat now will come and get me wherever I may be in the house and lead me down to the laundry room to turn the water on so she can drink, meowing with great purpose the entire time.

Yeah, she's got us right where she wants us. Let's hope she doesn't develop a taste for Evian or mineral water...............

Monday, November 2, 2009

Leopards and poodles and pigs, oh my!

So, my parents came up to visit for the big Halloween weekend festivities. Mom arrived with her year old standard poodle on Thursday, Dad arrived Friday afternoon. Of course, the Halloween festivities had actually started prior to their arrival, with the Halloween party at Hubby's office on Wednesday afternoon:

On Friday, inclement weather forced the school's Halloween parade indoors. All the various parents, grandparents and siblings crammed into the auditorium and the classes paraded through. I sat on the aisle, camera at the ready, and caught this shot:

You'll notice that this particular leopard *does* in fact change her spots. I never did the same spotting pattern twice for all the various costume-requiring activities. Artistic license, yo!

So, I mentioned that my mom brought up her poodle. Well it turns out that the poodle, ginormous as she may be, is scared - petrified, even! - of Kiddo's goldfish, Swimmy. The dog would slink up to the tank and then when the fish would swim over (because to Swimmy, any movement in the vicinity of the tank could bring manna from Heaven in the form of fish flakes, so Swimmy gets verrrrry excited to see things moving about in any close proximity) the dog would jump back and cower, tail between her legs. Heh.

The Halloween festivities continued on into the weekend, with Kiddo attending a friend's costume birthday party Saturday afternoon and then Trick or Treating in our neighborhood Saturday evening. Alas, a little bit later Saturday night, we went from leopard spots to swine flu. Kiddo spiked a fever of 104 and by midday Sunday, I was chilled, feverish and coughing too. Phone calls with the pediatrician's office have concluded that we both have H1N1 (which is running rampant through the school - over 20% of the kids were absent last Wednesday) so now I'm supposed to be monitoring Kiddo for worsening or new symptoms that might indicate a secondary infection and keep her resting comfortably and pushing fluids in the meanwhile. Sadly, without that great pacifier of TV, Kiddo is proving to be a most cranky and recalcitrant patient, which I do not particularly enjoy given that all I want to do is crawl into bed and let Nyquil take me away. Stupid Swine Flu. Hopefully for Hubby's birthday (yes, today marks the beginning of that glorious period where, for exactly six weeks, Hubby and I are the same age. Then I go back to being a year older, sob sob...) we will NOT give him our germs. He's threatening to fly off to Vegas after work, Dad left for work early this morning and my mother and her scaredy-fish poodle have departed for their apparently equally germy homeland of New Jersey (both of my nieces and one of my nephews down in Jersey have H1N1 symptoms as well) so right now the house is merely occupied by Cranky, Achy, Sneezy, Chilly, Fevery, Whiny and Coughy. Trust me, that's plenty of company for the time being.

(Apparently the above is available for sale as a t-shirt - don't know to whom the credit goes but it's not my original design and props to whomever did create it!!)