Giving Thanks

Even though our mornings start with me saying “Lily – breathe”  “Scoot forward angel face”  “Stand up – you can do it!” “Keep your feet under you baby girl”  “Walk forward”  “Lily relax your muscles”  “Lily open your mouth sweetie”  “Swallow your food honey”  “Lily you need to eat something before going to school”, they are also filled with so much love and many giggles.

Her struggles continue.  Some of her symptoms are getting worse.  Some are easing up.  But she still manages to put a smile on her face and bravely move forward with her day.  I do my best to follow suit.

I’m grateful that this girl continues to persevere in the face of so much adversity.  A lesser person would crumble.  I’ve crumbled.  But I dust myself off and remember that Lily needs me.  I do not have the luxury of losing my shit completely.  Though I do lose it momentarily, and preferably when she’s not around.

I am her voice (though she’s getting quite fluent with the Tobii), I am her arms, sometimes her legs, oftentimes her nurse, her doctor and always her advocate.  Oh yes, and I’m her mommy.  So we do our best to have as much fun as possible in between (and sometimes during) all those doctors and hospital appointments.

It’s the season of giving.  And my ask to you is this: if you are considering making a charitable donation in the coming weeks, please consider giving to the Rett Syndrome Research Trust.  We are SO very close to a cure; every dollar raised inches us to our goal.  And all of our Rett sweeties and their families could use a miracle right about now.

With Gratitude,

C & L

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Writing letters

My heart is bursting with pride. Sharing a note Lily’s teacher wrote today along with some pictures…

This kiddo had an amazing day! She’s been very interested in notes and letters (wanting to keep re-reading the notes you send in her lunchbox, very proud of the card she wrote for Christine’s birthday, etc). So yesterday and today we started talking more about letters. We talked about parts of a letter (greeting, body, closing) and Lily helped me sequence a letter that I wrote to Ms. Ariel. She was very into the activity (wanted it to be a secret and a surprise, and asked for “more” when the activity was complete). Then, she worked on her own letter. Christine, we sent it home in her backpack. We were blown away… she wrote it almost completely by herself, with nothing but some verbal prompts (e.g. “don’t forget, a greeting is like a hello…”).  She chose who the letter was for, what she wanted to say, and how she wanted to close out the letter. It was really great practice (writing work and using the Tobii), so I’m sure you’ll be seeing more letters in the upcoming weeks.

Today we also read a few more chapters of Junie B Jones and she was laughing hysterically at the silly parts. In one of the chapters, Junie is sharpening pencils (and attempts to sharpen a crayon in a pencil sharpener, which doesn’t go so well). Lily requested, “my turn,” so I took her to the office to sharpen a pencil. She seemed to think it was great fun! She once again did a fabulous job asking comprehension questions during the read aloud, and seemed very engaged. Once again, she was a total cuddle bunny today. At the end of the day, she kept going back and forth between me and Ariel, squealing, and leaning in for hugs. She also put her arm around each of us at least once, which was so exciting! She was very, very happy this afternoon.

See you soon,

Ellie

P.S. Lily and I had matching shirts on today, which she seemed to think was pretty funny!

Managing Rett Syndrome is a Full-Time Job

A few months ago while Lily and I were flying back from Florida, we struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to us.  It turns out that this woman works in the media – in a pretty high-profile way.  Vera had never heard of Rett Syndrome and was intrigued.  And so we kept in touch.

About a week into my 5-week leave from work this summer, she interviewed me for an online magazine.  We weren’t quite sure what the focus of the interview was going to be but it became pretty apparent with the first few questions that it was going to be about how the hell I manage working full time and caring for Lily.

You see – I was week one into a 5 week leave and it hit me in these first five days of not going into the office just how much I have on my plate with Lily.  Managing her 4 caregivers, her 2 home-based therapists, her 15+ doctors, filling out medicaid paperwork, filling out private insurance paperwork, making appointments, thinking about her diet, writing about her diet, counting calories, carrying therapy over into the home, ensuring that I’m communicating effectively with her teachers and therapists at school ALL while managing a home (laundry? dishes?).  Holy shit.  I really didn’t know how I was keeping up.  And now that I’m back at work, I’m still not fully sure how it all comes together.  But it does (hint: super helpful caregivers and therapists/teachers).  And so I continue – on most days, with a smile on my face.  Because I really have the sweetest, smartest, bravest, funniest, coolest kid in the world.

If you want to check out our interview, click here.

Back to Work, Back to School

Both Lily and I transitioned easily back into our routines. I returned to work with a clear head about the direction we were/likely are going in with the feeding tube. Of course my kid upended it all by devouring most everything in her sight after the appointment with her pediatric GI (who recommended a small feeding tube). So for now, the decision is still somewhat up in the air. She’s still eating well. But I’ve done my research, I’ve written out the pros/cons and I’m as comfortable as can be about this situation.

Which is a good thing as it’s been a crazy few weeks at the office. Thankfully my team held things together while I was out. Actually they did more than hold things together – they did a phenomenal job managing some really complex projects that arose during my absence. And the projects have kept piling up since my return. Currently my team is running multiple community fundraisers and assistance programs for employees who have been severely impacted by these recent disasters (the company I work for operates in over 100 countries and 500 cities). Additionally we hosted Cherie Blair (former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife and kick-ass advocate for women’s rights) for a conversation and cocktails the day after the earthquake in Mexico. It’s been both a a sad and inspirational time at work. So much devastation but also so much support for our employees (which my team and I are managing). And to top it off, a cool panel session with some awesome ladies.

As for Lily – she continues to have her ups and downs. But is loving school and her therapies. I’m getting notes from her teachers and therapists that she is blowing them away. I’m so proud of this hard-working kid.

From top to bottom:

  1. Mom working hard
  2. Lily letting me know what she thinks about Rett Syndrome on a bad day
  3. Excited about the first day of first grade!

Looks from strangers

IMG_7090Whether we’re walking down the street together or I’m pushing her in her adaptive stroller, we get stared at.  Some people are sly about it – they look out of the corner of their eye.  Others are overtly staring – gaping mouthed – at us.  Some days I can ignore it.  Other days, I stare right back at them.  It really depends on how much sleep I get the night before.  This issue has been a BIG topic of discussion on one of the many amazing special needs parent groups that support me and Lily along this journey of ours.

One mom (shout out to Jackie from Queens!) piped up some awesome suggestions which I want to share with parents who are on a similar journey and also for our friends/family who want to better understand just one of the many micro-annoyances that are a part of our day-to-day lives.

1) You have to stop caring what other people think. Completely. Unequivocally. From the bottom of your heart, stop caring about other people’s opinions relating to your child or your parenting. YOU ARE DOING YOUR BEST AND YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB! (how do I know? because we are all trying our best – that’s why we’re here on the chat board) The rest of the world just has no clue, and it is unreasonable for you to expect them to. The rest of the world is NEVER going to understand what our lives are like – it would be impossible to convey the mountains of information relating to our kiddos and we each have a different story.

2) You should keep in mind that (even if it seems like they are really really not) those other judgy, nosy, know-it-all people are doing their best too! Their best just sucks, but it’s not really their fault – no one taught them good manners or how to behave. They don’t have good tools to share suggestions in a helpful way. People often don’t think things through, they just act.

3) If you can’t beat em – join em! LOL!!!! I am a big fan of dealing with other’s inappropriate interventions with passive-aggressive techniques! If I’m on the subway and actually feel like bothering to address the people who are glaring at me and my 6 y.o. who is having a melt down I will LOUDLY remind my daughter that I’m not going to give in to her meltdown, that doing so would teach her that she will get what she wants by throwing a temper tantrum, that it would be unfair for me to not provide consistency and stick with consequences that have been pre-determined (if you keep hitting your brother I am going to put you in the stroller, etc), and that when she has a calm quiet voice and body I am looking forward to helping her and addressing what ever is causing her to feel so upset. My daughter can’t hear any of this, of course; when she’s melting down she’s in full-on fight-or-flight mode and has lost connection to the outside world temporarily. .. but the rest of the glaring people can hear me 😉 and honestly, I think they know I am talking to them, not my daughter.

Someone who intrudes upon your life is small and petty and not worth one second of anxiety. They don’t have the right to cause you stress!!!! I do understand your anxiety, I used to feel it ALL the time, and then I just let go … one day I stopped and looked at the big picture and realized that I was so hard on myself, being critical b/c I knew my kids were disruptive and annoying to others – but I thought about what advice I would give to a friend with unruly kids and I realized that I was just not being very understanding or nice to myself. Be as understanding and caring and supportive of yourself as you would be to your dearest friend. What we do it SO HARD! Give yourself credit and take care of your self and don’t worry about what other people think.

I’m hoping that one day I can completely ‘let it go’ like this wise momma has done. Until then, I’m going to pray for as much sleep as possible.

 

A (hopefully) brave new world

As most Americans are reeling about the outcome of the presidential elections, the special needs community is taking it particularly hard.   I’ve not been able to put words to my thoughts and fears about Trump being elected.  Thankfully a fellow Rett momma warrior, Lauren Cooper Allen, did just that on Facebook’s Pantsuit Nation site and I just had to share.  You can click here to see the original post if you have a Facebook account and read all the amazing and beautiful responses.  I recommend that you read the responses.  It filled me with hope.

This is my 13 year old daughter Molly. She has Rett Syndrome (RS), a neurological disorder that effects 1 in 10,000 GIRLS and WOMEN worldwide.

Molly cannot walk or talk and often has uncontrolled hand movements much like the ones Donald Trump made fun of and mocked in reporter Serge Kovaleski.

15085596_10211510858434011_5619371133999671014_nI have watched, often silently, as my daughter is stared at. I have watched as people have pointed and spoken in hushed whispers “what is wrong with her?”.

I have spent tireless hours educating others on disability and acceptance, and my fears now have become a hard reality.

Not only does my family face catastrophic cuts to the social service programs that allow
us to care for her at home but I fear that the walls to tolerance and acceptance which we have worked so hard to chip away at are being slowly built back up.

How long before children think it is OK to mock, ignore and marginalize her? How long before she realizes that she is not a valued member of our society?

Here is my plea. If you see a disabled child, please, speak to them, smile at them, let their parents know that you are committed to taking care of the most vulnerable members of our society.

 

❤️

Photo credit: Elise Hanna

#togetherstronger #lovetrumpshate #buildlovenotwalls

 

The to-do lists are endless

My soul is hurting this week. 

I’m still fighting for basic Medicaid services (like diapers, overnight respite, daytime respite) while trying to prepare (and not completely flip out) for Lily starting kindergarten next month. 

I’ve had to postpone our move to the Upper West Side which means she will be in for quite a bus ride to and from school. So I need to make sure it’s as comfortable, and as safe, as possible. I’ve already gotten a doctors note requesting what must happen but trying to find the right person within the DOE to make this a reality is proving impossible.

Good news is that I’ve averted the ‘adaptive stroller’ issue for the bus but that was a research project and fight in its own right. And the fight is only half over. 

There’s always so much to do. The lists I have written down, and in my head, are endless.  So the idea of moving while all this is going on (and I’m not even adding the to-do’s from my job) makes my head reel. 

At the top of these lists (other than bussing and Medicaid) is to get her new school up to speed with her abilities, and needs (they’ve never had a Rett sweetie nor do they have experience with the Tobii), get Lily acclimated to a new school with new kids and new teachers, find a few new home-based therapists to replace those that fall off after pre-k (hint: this is not easy), and remind myself that it is all going to work out. Deep breaths. 

I wish I could say that Lily’s sleep has stabilized but that would be a lie. And the panic attacks, though less frequent for now, are still happening. 

The upside? Lily is keeping me laughing with her silly antics. Yesterday she kept pulling down her Peppa Pig artwork from the wall. Shamekia the nanny initially thought it was an accident so kept pinning it back up. But after the third time she found it on the floor, she asked Lily ‘you don’t like Peppa Pig today?’ And Lily scrunched up her face in a recognizable look of disgust, which means ‘no.’  And then she giggled about it.

Why my child doesn’t like Peppa Pig all of a sudden is still unknown to us. But I love that she is always finding new ways to let us know what she likes, and doesn’t like. 

If we (meaning me, Shamekia and/or her therapists) figure out why Peppa has turned into persona non grata, I will let you know. But for now, I will leave you with a visual of my kid admiring her art wall sans Peppa from earlier today. 

Peppa pig in the doghouse.jpg