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 :)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Kite Chronicles

There's nothing like a hot summer April.  Living in the northeast we don't get a lot of 90 degree days, at least not until July and August.  And by then, we're pretty sick and tired of the humidity. So last week when we were all sweetly surprised by the very early arrival of some much-needed warm weather, I decided to pack up the family and head to the beach.

Last summer we had some success with kite-flying.  It was my older son Noah's first attempt to fly a kite and he really enjoyed it.  But he was only 2 and it was our first time so I bought some cheap crappy kite that lasted about 1 week.  

This time I wanted a kite that would last more than a couple of days. So to begin our "Summer in the middle of April" we planned for our first stop to be a toy store. Now that never usually goes well when the kids are in tow. They want to play with everything and get upset at the toy you actually buy them, and by the time you are exiting the store, usually one of the kids (or parents) is crying.  

On this particular day, and in this particular toy store, we hit gold!  This place was awesome! Not only did it have some pretty awesome kites (we bought a pirate and crossbones kite), but it had every toy the kids could imagine, plus the ones that I remember from my childhood. I think my husband and I had more fun than the kids (maybe a slight exaggeration, but we were digging this place).

While the boys were playing with trains (of course), I wandered over to the "pink" part of the store. Oh my god, the dolls, the dollhouses, the dress-up costumes, the Hello Kitty purses and lipsticks...I was drooling.  I spent a good 10 minutes looking at the little toy mouses in the 3-story colonial doll-house.  All the mouse-sized furniture, place settings, clothes, and accessories.  I could have played, I mean stayed there all day.  I think hubby was getting worried.  All the girl toys were definitely wreaking havoc with my ovaries. I started thinking about how great it would be to have one more baby, and to have that baby be a girl.  If only my powers for planning and organizing could guarantee that outcome.  Hmmm...something to think about. 

But I digress. So we picked out our kite and went on our way.  We stopped to have lunch at this great restaurant with outdoor seating.  The best part was that we were on the edge of the patio so Noah could play out on the grass while we waited for lunch to be served.  My younger son, Charlie, played frisbee with the plates and shattered one on the brick patio.  Oops, sorry nice restaurant, but that's bound to happen when you let kids in.

After lunch (awesome salads!) we headed to the beach.  For some reason I thought I would be the only person with the brilliant idea to go to the beach.  Wrong.  There were about 1000 people there.  Most were actually in their bathing suits doing their best to get their first sun-burns of the season.  And for the crazy fools who jumped in the water...Idiots!  People, the water temperature in the Northern Atlantic in April is 48 degrees.  That's feaking cold!  

Charlie and I settled onto our blanket in the sand. Alan and Noah took their shirts off and went to work getting the kite in the air.  Or I should say that Alan went to work.  Noah went running.  It's what he does; he runs.  And runs. And runs. And runs.  He is our own Forrest Gump!

I got a kick out of watching Alan try to get that kite in the air. It just wasn't working. I assumed I could do it better, but I couldn't (I know, even I was shocked!)  I have to give him credit though, despite the fact that his man-hood was being tested (nothing like trying, and failing, to get a little kid's pirate kite in the sky), Alan would not give up.  He was determined to get this kite in the air for Noah. And after a long while (maybe 20 minutes or so) he finally got it.  Off it flew.  Noah was pretty pumped; so was Alan.  It was a cute moment. A dad and his son flying a kite.

This is what summer is all about.  Even if it is only April.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Better than yesterday...

So far, today is much better than yesterday.  I'm pretty thankful to be able to say that, because for far too many people in the world, each day can bring a new kind of hell and misery.  Today (and most days actually), I am not in that category. Today the sun is shining, the kids are no longer sick and miserable, and the husband did some dishes.  Overall, life is pretty good today.

Now yesterday, well that was a different story.  Not to worry, nothing awful happened, and no injuries were sustained. But I was in such a funk yesterday and just kept wondering, "when is it going to get easier?" and, "when will my family run like a well-oiled machine?"  I know, I know...the answers to those questions are forever going to be "NEVER!" And that is OK, most of the time.  But yesterday, I just needed things to go a little smoother.  Yesterday I needed less whining, less crying, less arguing over housework, less disagreement over how to parent our kids, less laundry, and less of the same-old, same-old.  Yesterday what I needed was someone to say "what can I/we do for you?"  Yesterday I needed to hear the words, "You matter."  That's all; not too much to ask for, right?

It's funny how the universe works.  Some days we receive big-ol', in-your-face signs from the universe that are so relevant to our present situations, we are left with no choice but to accept that things have a way of working out, with or without our involvement or control.  Other days, the messages are subtle, so subtle that you just might miss them if you are moving too fast or listening too intently to the background noise of your world.  Some days the universe practically whispers to you (often through the voices of our kids) that today everything will be ok, and the world will make sense, if only for today.

I get a little smile on my face every time one of my kids does something that is good and kind.  I am a person who believes that we are all born inherently good and kind.  But goodness and kindness are also qualities that need to be crafted and carved into your soul.  You need to practice it on a daily basis, and if you have kids you need to teach them how to practice it as well.  So when one of my kids is good and kind, I smile because I know that my work is paying off.  What I am trying to drill into their heads each and every day is working; they are learning that to be good and kind is to be human.  It's something we all share, and something we must continue to share with each other.

My oldest boy, Noah, (who was up at 5:55 am this morning--WTH?) was playing with his toys today and stopped in the middle of  an enjoyable sequence of train-bashing, looked around and laid eyes on his baby brother, Charlie, sitting in the next room playing with his own toys.  Noah got down to Charlie's level, and asked him most sincerely, if he would like to come and play with him.  Mind you, Charlie is much younger than Noah, and isn't capable of "playing" the same way as Noah.  Charlie's form of play usually involves throwing and scattering toys all over the room and then screeching for someone to pick them up for him.  This kind of play drives Noah insane!  But today, Noah looked past what was inevitably going to happen, saw that his baby brother was playing all alone, and decided that the good and kind thing to do was to invite his brother to play with him.  How sweet!  And for a few moments they really had fun together. Until Charlie got hold of the trains and threw them across the room.  Moment over. 

But the message of the moment was not lost on me, even before my morning coffee.  The work I do, raising my kids and trying to teach them about goodness and kindness, matters!  They are learning.  They are born sweet and good and kind and innocent.  But it is easy to lose that in the monotony of our lives and in the stress of the world around us.  Given all that, and given the silliness of these two brothers of most days, they are individually and uniquely remembering to be kind to each other.  And hopefully, as they grow in the world, they will continue to be kind to others.  

I'm a happy camper today.  Something I have done matters, and while I may not be hearing the singing praises of my actions from those around me, I was still enough and quiet enough to get the message.  Thanks universe!  

Yep, today is definitely better than yesterday.  Looking forward to tomorrow!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Let's try this again...

Ok, so I've become inspired to start my own blog.  I've been following a few blogs for some time now and have really enjoyed getting to know about these individuals and their lives.  I've often wished I had a larger network of peeps who could provide ears to listen to my raves, shoulders to cry on, outpourings of advice when my brain/heart/soul fails to guide me while on my way. Unfortunately, the reality is that it is hard getting to meet new people, especially as an adult who is trapped in my house most of the day with 2 kids.  

While it isn't easy to chat it up with total strangers at the park while my 3-year-old whines to push him higher, HIGHER on the swings, I suppose I could spend a few moments a day to chat it up with strangers online.  Seems like it works for a lot of other people (ok, I'm actually a little envious of the friendships people are striking up via their blogs). I am and I am all yours!  

Sure, I have a lot of things to share (like my 3-year-olds perceptions of the differences between penises and baginas), but I'm also eager to hear about you too.  I'll bet that we have a lot of the same experiences to share.  No doubt most moms and dads out there have run the gammet of wonderful, embarrassing, awful, icky situations with their kids.  At least we have that in common! And for those of you without kids, I remember those days (sometimes fondly) and need to be reminded that there is a world out there that doesn't involve crayons, diapers, snot, baby food, bedtime stories and bad attitudes (the 3-year-old version)!

Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.  Yesterday I wrote a much more inspired and heartfelt post, which was to be my introduction into the world of blogging.  But of course, I didn't save it and it was lost somewhere in cyberspace.  Figures...

So, my time is up.  Kid #1 is up from his nap and my "me-time" is over.  More tomorrow perhaps...