Saturday, November 7, 2009

Never too early

The Department of Public Health is proposing a $2 Million cut to the Early Intervention program in Massachusetts. This would translate to a cut in services to thousands of kids who have developmental delays and thus need assistance to overcome those delays. Charlie is one of these kids.

I felt the need to speak out. This is the testimony I delivered at the public hearing. Charlie was in my arms as I spoke. Nice prop, yes?


Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

I am the parent of a child who has received services from the Early Intervention system. My son Charlie is 22-months-old. Six months ago he couldn't walk; he couldn't crawl; he couldn't even roll over. When Charlie was 12-months-old, we noticed that he hadn't yet achieved some of the milestones that were typical of babies that age. We didn't worry because we knew that every child was different.

However, by the time Charlie reached 15-months-old, we finally could see that we were facing something that was more than just a difference in his timeline to achieve the dedicated milestones of toddlers. Charlie wasn't able to move his body the same way as other children the same age. Charlie wasn't able to make sounds and vocalizations the same way as other children the same age. We were finally able to see that something was wrong.

We needed help. We are thankful everyday that we learned about Early Intervention Services in our area. We made the call right away.

Almost immediately, upon meeting with an Early Intervention Specialist, Charlie received an assessment and was it was determined that he had a 30% delay ingross motor skills. Thankfully, he was able to receive services. Within 3 months Charlie was not only rolling and crawling, but he was walking and running (to the best of his ability), and exploring his world with excitement and enthusiasm.

If the proposed changes are made to the Early Intervention program in Massachusetts, children like Charlie would not receive services. I shudder to think how much harder our road would have been if we had been forced to travel it without the caring and professional assistance of the specialists within the Early Intervention program.

According to the Global School Psychology Network*, there is 50 years of quantitative and qualitative research that early intervention increases the developmental and educational gains for the child, improves the functioning of the family, and reaps long-term benefits for society.

"Early intervention has been shown to result in the child:

  • Needing fewer special education and other rehabilitative services later in life
  • Being retained in grade less often
  • In some cases being indistinguishable from non-handicapped classmates years after intervention"
The same research has also concluded that "the rate of human learning and development is most rapid in the preschool years. The timing of intervention becomes particularly important when a child runs the risk of missing an opportunity to learn during a state of maximum readiness. If the most teachable moments or stages of greatest readiness are not taken advantage of, a child may have difficulty learning a particular skill at a later time."

In my family's case, we were fortunate enough to receive the assistance from Early Intervention services at a time when my young child so desperately wanted to grow and learn and explore. If Charlie had been denied these services, not only would we have had to find private resources to help us, but Charlie would have lost out on crucial time that is so important in the development of the young mind and body of a toddler.

It is my sincere hope that other children will be given the same chance Charlie to overcome their developmental delays. Early Intervention offers critical support to children and families. It would be a devastating blow if the program was restricted in any way that would limit the services to those who so greatly need them.

I thank you for your time and consideration of my comments.

Jessica Stephens Siler


Saturday, October 10, 2009

What I did on my summer vacation...Part II

My dog died this summer.

I never in a million years thought that I would be writing that.

Sad? More than I can say.

We continue to ask each other "honey, have you let the dog in?"

I continue to look to the rug to see my buddy lying there looking back up at me.

I long to trip over him in the kitchen, be awaken by his sighs in the middle of the night, scratch his ridiculously soft black ears, and watch my kids play chase with him in the yard. There is nothing like the sound of kids running around with and loving their dog, and knowing that he too is loving every minute of it.

Noah told me the other day, with sadness in his voice, that he is starting to forget Barkley. We now talk about him daily. I'm not ready for him to be forgotten.

He was our first baby. We loved him, walked him, protected him, fed him, cared for him. In his short time as our dog, Barkley did so much more for us.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What I did on my summer vacation...Part I

It's October and the leaves are changing and the winds are blowing. Sweaters are finding their way into my closet, and socks are gracing my feet for the first time in months. Yep, it's fall.

As usual I find myself both excited and sad at the beginning of this season. I love that a new year is starting (it will always be the "new year" to me because I will follow a school-year calendar until I am old and gray.) I love the feel of new pants on sun-tanned legs, the smell of leaves burning off in the distance, and the ritual of preparing to "hunker down" for the long winter months (a.k.a. finally feeling comfortable stuffing my face with yummy comfort food!) Ahhh, fall.

And yet, I'm soooooo sad that summer is over. I so desperately enjoy the warm weather that my soul literally aches when the temperature drops below 70 degrees for the first time in 3 months. I am free in the summer... free to live like my relaxin', chilled-out self.

Heh heh.

I am free to admit that what matters most to me (other than the obvious... my kids, world peace, etc.) are flip-flops, t-shirts, pony tails, ice cream, and pedicures. Neighborhood games of tag and endless walks around the block fill my weekdays. And on the weekends we jump in the car and head off on an adventure to a new place. Cape Cod, New Hampshire, Ohio and Michigan, plus countless new beaches, parks, and outdoor restaurants.

Jeesh, do I really have to wait 9 more months to be able to do those things again? I'm not sure I can make it.

At least I have my memories to carry me through. I usually have very nice summers, filled with a perfect mix of relaxation and excitement. This summer, for the most part, was no exception. We checked lots of items off our "to do, or travel to" list. We saw lots of great friends, and lots of family. In fact, the whole point of this post is to take a moment out of my day-to-day to acknowledge something that this summer reminded me of: I have awesome friends.

The great thing, and sometimes sad thing, is that by the time you're in your 30's, you can very easily have friends in every part of the country. I am no exception. I can travel from one coast to the other and never have to stay in a hotel room, if I so choose. I love my friends; those that I see often and those that I see only once a year. I especially love the ones who accept that time can get away from us, and months between calls and visits doesn't lessen the value I hold on our friendships.

Yes, true friends are hard to come by. And I will continue to travel to the ends of the earth to spend time with them. Thankfully, I don't have to go too far. And I love a good road trip.

Here's looking forward to next summer and the reunions that are to come!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Um, yeah...

Um, yeah, so apparently I suck at blogging.

Some quick googling has taught me that the point of blogging is to share my personal experiences and hobbies in an on-line journal, on a daily (or close to it) basis. Heh heh.

So yes, it's been about 3 months since I've last written anything. Why? No reason I suppose, other than the fact that I continue to struggle with time management. And that my on-again, off-again career in investigating the where-abouts of missing persons has a tendency to overtake my free-time.

The time management dilemma is self-explanatory: I have 2 young kids who consume my thoughts, actions, and patience day in and day out. No fewer than 10 times per day do I wonder 1) how women continue to live past the age of 40 when they are raising multiple children, or 2) am I doing a huge disservice to my kids by staying home with them, when quite frankly we might just all get along a helluva lot better if I worked outside the home a few hours a day. To know for sure would be divine.

My other hobby, well it's been slowly growing for the last couple of years, and at times takes on a greater level of urgency in my life than might be necessary. You see, there once was this girl who grew into a woman and she had ambitions to do things, change things, achieve things. Not in the personal sense where she wanted to make a certain amount of money, or achieve the ideal weight, or live in the perfect house. Nope, she wanted to change the world, but in small ways, that would be felt but not realized perhaps in her lifetime. This woman was so excited to prove that we could live our lives in a way that would matter to the world, to humanity, to all lives. Of course, she had no idea how she was going to do this, but she was taking the necessary steps to learn, absorb, and feel her way to the finish line.

Suddenly she fell off the radar. We haven't heard from her in a long time. There are traces of her here and there, but her footprint is visibly missing from the path that we walk everyday. I wonder: Will we see her again? Does she have plans to return to her path? Was she abducted by aliens? I want this to be short post, so for now I'll say...more on this story later...(can you understand why I'm so intrigued by this cold case?)

So it is true that this new-to-the-world blogger has fallen off the wagon and is going to try very hard to write my way back to a respectable level of blogging. Perhaps I have let the entire summer go by, but I plan to relive it during the next few days in some well-overdue posts.

Topics to be covered include: laughter, love, friends, family, loss, and moving on. It has been a summer of highs and lows, giggles and sobs, milestones and misses. Can't wait to fill y'all in.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Going it alone

The other day I happened upon an article in a rather well-known magazine that was breaking down the sad statistics about marriages ending as a result of infidelity.  Obviously there were quite a few current examples of men cheating on their wives; most, if not all, of these men were elected officials. 

Of course, my blood started to boil.  

Not just at the fact that so many men can't seem to keep their pants on outside of the homes that they built with their wives, but also because people who hold an elected position should, in my opinion, BEHAVE THEMSELVES! Is it really so hard to not sleep with someone other than your spouse?  Especially when you know the world is watching (or at least it will once the story breaks in the local papers). Jeez.

Reading the article accomplished 2 things for me: 1) I now officially hate elected officials (most of them for sure, and absolutely the ones who think they are entitled to play when WE put them in that office to work), and 2) marriage is worth fighting for; mine, yours, and the guys' down the street. There is a reason why we seek out a partner with which to share our lives...because it sucks going it alone!

Now this is not to say that being single (either by choice or circumstance) is a tragedy.  Far from it. But once a person has made a decision to enter into some kind of union (and I am talking the real kind, where you actually love the other person regardless of money, status, or anticipated expectations) it isn't easy to readjust to a life outside that union.  Ending a marriage, or union, sucks and it really is sad to see that the majority of people in our country will end up with broken hearts and broken families.

I know that divorce happens for a lot of sound and sensible reasons. Domestic abuse, infidelity, lying, and a few other nasty behaviors are certainly grounds for moving on from someone you took a chance on. And despite the fact that the article was discussing infidelity as the likely culprit for the end of many marriages, it also seems that a lot of people are just falling out of love.  

We are bored with one another, or we're fighting about the same things constantly, or we are stressed about money/time/kids, etc. We all know the reasons why we're not happy with our significant others.  But is that really a reason to walk away from our commitments? I'd like to think NO.

(And please understand that I am not talking about a commitment that involves God. God has nothing to do with my marriage.  I made a commitment to my husband, and that should be enough without bringing "you know who" into the picture.)

What the hell is the point of getting married in the first place if we have already given ourselves an "out".  

"Yes I love you, but if you start to annoy me, I'm outta here!"

As long as you still like each other, and can remember why you chose to be together in the first place, I would like to think there exists some reason for continuing to work towards achieving what you initially set out to have for yourselves: a life partner.  If you can't stand each other and loath being in the same room for any amount of time, well, I guess that's something you need to figure out for yourselves. And yes, if you're actively out seeking another person to be with while your significant other is home with the kids, well then what are you waiting for?

Does my husband annoy me?  Yes, on a daily basis.  Do my husband and I argue about the same things everyday? Yep.  Do we disagree on how to raise our kids? Uh, duh. Do I wish my husband did more around the house? YES (that is an emphatic "yes" !) Does my husband wish I would loosen up and not take things so seriously? You betcha.  Despite all the things that literally drive us crazy about each other, do either of us want to go it alone? Not on your life.

I think even in our most frustrated of moments we both understand there are some pretty huge bumps in the road on this journey we are on.  But it is a journey, and we would like to finish it together.  We dream of sitting in the bleachers to watch our kids' games or music concerts (if we should be so lucky as to have a musician in the family). We dream of being able to have free time together to eat out and travel more. We so look forward to trying new things together, and enjoying the same things we have always loved. 

Are we any better or stronger than other people? Heck no. I'm not going to naively assume that because I write these words I will fend off divorce any easier than other couples out there. But I do know that I don't want to go it alone.  I chose this person for a reason and would prefer that he be by my side on this particular journey. For now, for always. 

I will not tread lightly and I will not be afraid to ruffle his feathers. But I will also not go deliberately out of my way to mess things up and and create a reason for this marriage, this one-out-of-a-million marriages, to end. 

Just a little light thinking for a Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thank God for Charlie!

There is nothing like having your first baby.  The pregnancy, the birth, those first few days home; nothing will ever compare. 

And as your first baby grows from infancy into toddlerhood, and then slowly starts to evolve into a kid, your world evolves too. Your child has developed a personality that is unique and special, funny and warm, stubborn and strong, and you as the parent learn (hopefully) how to not only relate to this little person, but also how to nurture and challenge him. Your first child inevitably brings out the best and the worst in you. But oh what a ride!  

And then comes baby number 2. When I was pregnant with Charlie, I thought I knew what to expect. I assumed that my experiences with Noah would prepare me for not only the birth of my second child, but also for the ups and downs that come with caring for and loving a newborn. This proved to be true, for the most part. 

I also assumed (stupidly and ridiculously) that my second child would be much like my first; personality, likes vs. dislikes, milestones, etc. Not only did this prove to be anything but true, but what a shame it would have been if Charlie had resembled anyone other than himself.  The world would be without one of it's shiniest stars!

Charlie approaches life with a smile, a chuckle and an unbridled enthusiasm that never ceases to amaze his parents. He had a hard time in the beginning with awful reflux and chronic breathing issues, both of which caused him to scream and cry for most of his waking hours. The bulk of his health issues resolved on their own, and now we are only left with a slight delay in his gross motor skills that we are working on via physical therapy and swim classes. All in all, nothing that he (and we) can't handle.

The amazing thing about Charlie is that none of this has phased him.  Nothing phases him.  He wakes up every day with a big smile and is usually laughing at something around him with minutes of opening his eyes.  He approaches obstacles either with a stubborn resolve or a shrug of his shoulders as he moves on to something else (not walking yet, but man can he scoot on his butt with the best of them!) Because of Charlie and his approach to life I have learned to be a little sillier, laugh a little louder, and realize that things aren't always as bad as I think they are (or will be).  Not a bad lesson to learn from a 1-year-old.

I've got a bazillion wonderful things to write about both kids, but today I just want to write "Thank God for Charlie!"  He's simply awesome!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It snot all bad

There is nothing more disgusting than other people's snot.  As a mother who stays home with her kids all day, every day I find myself surrounded by it...constantly.  Usually at least one of my kids has a runny nose, but lately, they both have been streaming from the nostrils.  There are tissues everywhere, fresh ones, wadded-up ones, dried and yellow ones.  Have I said enough to make you gag?  No? Well then I'll keep going!

My oldest, Noah, has finally learned to use (and dispose of) a tissue on his own, most of the time. He may not take care of the deed as artfully as his mom would, but I am happy nonetheless to remove myself from that job.  

Charlie on the other hand would rather have the ewwy, gooey stuff running down his face and then wipe it through his hair (that includes eyelashes, eyebrows and the brown mop of curls on his head), than have anyone come near him with a tissue.  Why are babies like that?  What is the big deal with having your nose wiped?  I mean, seriously, yuck.

(Note to readers: I could post a picture here related to the topic at hand, but I will spare you the "juicy" details!)

And then there is the debris that gets dragged along for the ride.  Charlie is on the floor, in the yard, eating his food, and playing with the animals; and it is all completely apparent by the evidence stuck to and dried on his face. A face only a mother can love would be that of a 1 year-0ld with cat fur, grass, and chocolate-chip cookie crumbs stuck to his snot-encrusted upper lip. (Again, I will spare you the pictures, although I do have them for future use.)

So to end, things with the family are good, if not a little sticky. I could be writing about the number of tantrums and timeouts that we had this past week. I could be writing about the untold number of dishes, bottles, diapers and dog-piles I had my hands in this week. But all in all, this was a very good week. See?  It snot all bad :)