Goodbye 2nd Grade

Change can be difficult.

Today we say goodbye to Sabrina’s current teacher, Mrs. Preto.  To say we’ve been blessed this year with an amazing teacher would be an understatement. Along with Sabrina’s Instructional Assistant, Sabrina has had a loving and positive classroom team that believes in her, as well as a warm, rich classroom environment where she has thrived.

Until this week, I hadn’t allowed myself to really feel the sadness about saying goodbye and instead I threw myself into the actual planning for the transition.

Effective routines and practices have been put into place for Sabrina this year. Routines are so important for her feeling of safety, and she can’t learn without that. Although I know that in her new class there will be a whole new set of routines and activities, I want to do all that I can to make sure that the core of what we’ve learned this year can be carried over.

I’ve created a Portfolio for Sabrina that includes an “About Me” document, Goals @ A Glance, a document with some sign language that that effective for her need for visuals, and examples of modifications and peer supports that have been used. I have started researching which books she may read next year and trying to find modifications for those so that she can participate. I’ve started thinking about social opportunities for Sabrina over the summer, so that we can nurture those friendships over the break.

Today was her last day of 2nd grade. It’s hit me now.

Sometimes you hear an adult talk about a teacher or an adult that changed their life. I know that Mrs. Preto is that for Sabrina.

I have fought hard for others to believe in Sabrina and to break those barriers of limits, and this year Mrs. Preto has helped ME believe even deeper in Sabrina and in what she can accomplish in life. It’s very easy to underestimate Sabrina, I know. To hear Mrs. Preto tell me after getting to know Sabrina that she has no limits for her has been powerful and has strengthened my own resolve that Sabrina will do great things. She models respect and patience, and has been a huge force in helping Sabrina develop wonderful relationships at school.

And really, I know that it isn’t goodbye and that a door isn’t closing. Mrs. Preto will continue to stay in our lives. She will be among the first to hear about Sabrina’s accomplishments.   She is a lifelong friend.

Yes, transitions are hard. But I must believe that what this year was meant to teach both me and Sabrina has been fulfilled for now and that we must move on and grow.

“The doors will be opened to those who are bold enough to knock.”
-Tony Gaskins

About Me

I wanted to share my draft of Sabrina’s About Me page for next year. It’s just a draft at this point. I am going to add more admirable characteristics, and I realize at least one bullet is incomplete. Just wanted to share my format and the general outline in case it can help anyone get theirs together.  I typically work on this on the summer, but this year I am getting it done before the end of the year so that I can remember specifics better.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/zn353h97tfnp47r/About%20Me.pdf?dl=0

The importance of a vision statement

take a walk

 Our Vision for Sabrina is that she will be an accepted member of the community. She will have friends, be loved, and find connections with people. She will learn to effectively communicate her thoughts and desires. She will be given frequent opportunities to make choices. She will participate in activities that she enjoys, that she can feel proud of and that give her a sense of self-worth. She will frequently have a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye.

This is our vision statement for Sabrina.  It was created in the summer of 2013, right after I decided to advocate for inclusion for Sabrina.  We have since tweaked it a little bit, but the main point of it has stayed the same- that she’ll be a member of the community.

Everyone’s heard the cliche that if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.  I learned about vision statements in  Julie’s Causton’s Inspired Advocate web series.  Having this vision statement has helped me tremendously along the way.  When I’ve felt like giving up or when I’ve been unsure what to do in a particular situation, having this vision statement to go back to helped me clarify what was important and gave me the motivation and inspiration to keep going at it.

I read it at her IEPs (although I just realized that I didn’t read it at the last one- oops!), and give it to her IEP team at the beginning of the year.  It’s important for everyone on her team to know what our vision is for Sabrina, and why we believe in inclusion.

If you have one, please share your vision statements for your child in the comments!

 

Inclusion doesn’t just benefit children WITH disabilities-a note from a teacher

The following is from Nancy Preto, Sabrina’s 2nd grade general education teacher.  Please read the whole thing, especially if you have any doubts about inclusion for a child with significant disabilities like Sabrina.

“I wish I could do a “mind meld” and give you the picture and thoughts I had today. My heart absolutely grew just watching the whole story unfold. In my mind I reminisced over the entire year. The obvious growth of Sabrina … Her language, her connection to people, her established routines, her desire for more routines, etc. I couldn’t stay in my classroom after school today. I wandered campus and every time I ran into someone I had to share the beauty I saw today. This year I know Sabrina has grown. That story has been a joy to tell and read on this page. I need to say to everyone reading this that there is so much more to the story of Sabrina’s year in second grade. She has brought to my classroom compassion, friendship, and understanding. Her classmates have learned about waiting their turn. They understand and appreciate other people’s learning style. They enjoy and thrive in being helpers. They read more stories to Sabrina than I would have dreamed! Sabrina is loving and kind. Kids are loving and kind when they are with her. Sabrina is happy. Kids are happy when they are with her. Sabrina wants to communicate. Kids communicate when they are with her. Sabrina wants to learn. Kids love to help her learn. Sabrina had given the kids in my classroom many gifts this year. The best gift of all was what Sabrina gave to me. (Long pause… So much to say…) In a nutshell … She gave me a tremendous challenge which turned into one of the greatest joys of my life. I absolutely love Sabrina and her family. I have so much respect for their commitment and passion. I have no limits for Sabrina.”

 

It’s so sad

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A while ago I saw a woman that we hadn’t seen in a couple of years.  This is a woman who also knows Ken and the girls.  Sabrina was a bit overwhelmed to be in a new home at first- just some mild covering of the ears, etc, but then she fairly quickly started feeling more comfortable.  As the woman and I were talking, Sabrina walked up to her and said hi, she and the woman exchanged big smiles, and the woman was very warm with Sabrina.  She then surprised me by immediately turning to me and saying “It’s so sad…”

Sad?  Does this look like the face of a sad situation?

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This woman surely hasn’t had the pleasure of seeing Sabrina on her lunch count “job” at school, where she happily gets to socialize and practice her number skills and feel good about herself.  She hasn’t seen her gracefully swim through the water. She hasn’t seen the way that she’s part of a community at school, surrounded by peers. She hasn’t seen her reaction- pure joy- to hearing a song with beat come on the radio.

I get it.  People look at Sabrina and they see a kid who can’t talk, who has a much harder time understanding things than the typical person, who has a hard time doing A LOT.  She will never be able to live completely independently, she’ll never get the chance to achieve certain dreams that most people have.  So I get it, I do.  And sure, I can also show you a million pictures where Sabrina looks sad or mad.  It’s not all sunshine and roses.  But, I can show you those of Alexa, too.  No one goes through life without hardships or struggles.  What we do is try to teach our kids how to deal with those struggles and life’s disappointments, and Sabrina’s no different in that regard.  It’s just that her struggles and disappointments may look a little different than her sister’s.

Now, back to the comment.  If someone had made a comment like this to me a couple of years ago, it would have upset me so much that I would have either blown up with a rude comment, or been so upset and said nothing.  This comment  no longer bothered me like it would have in the past.

I calmly looked straight at her and said “I don’t think it’s sad at all.  Sabrina is very happy.  She is the happiest person in our family, actually.”  She nodded but looked like she didn’t believe me, which is fine.  What’s important is that I believe it.  I feel good about the life that we’re giving Sabrina.  Really good.

Growth and expectations

Sabrina has been doing AWESOME at school.  I love it when staff members and other parents tell me how much growth they’ve seen in Sabrina, especially those who’ve known Sabrina throughout this journey.  There’s no one else better to hear this from than her teacher!

I recently received an email from Sabrina’s teacher that started with: “If I could tell the whole world about Sabrina’s growth, learning, successes, and influences, I would take out an advertisement on the moon for everyone to see.”

I told her that I couldn’t take out an advertisement on the moon, but I COULD post it here. :-)

The email is posted below with permission from her teacher.  I have removed a few lines that are not relevant (casual chit-chat), and have added a couple of comments in parenthesis.

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Hi Nelia!

If I could tell the whole world about Sabrina’s growth, learning, successes, and influences, I would take out an advertisement on the moon for everyone to see. As it is, I can’t do that, but I sure walk around campus and brag just about every chance I get. :-)

Last week was a new benchmark for Sabrina. There were more moments than not of Sabrina being engaged, listening, learning, following directions, etc. So many I can’t even begin to recount them. What really impressed me was when Nicole was absent. So, we had Lisa P. and then a substitute aid to give Lisa her break. I say I was most impressed, because the structure and routine that Nicole and I have put in place allowed for that day to continue just like the rest.

So a typical day last week…. Sabrina brings her backpack to her desk. She then wants to go directly to the rocking chair, but her friends help her unstack chairs and push them to a desk. Then we all sit to talk about the story we’re about to read. Then I have the kids read with partners for about 5 minutes. Sometimes Nicole and Sabrina will read together or Sabrina will sit with a couple kids to listen. Then we come back to a circle (Sabrina loves the bench seat next to the rocking chair.) to read the story. Sabrina listens to the story. Sometimes she’ll get up, but with just a quick reminder, she’ll sit back down. Then it’s time for everyone to work. This is when Nicole will work on zoophonics, flash cards, writing or reading.

Somewhere in the morning Nicole takes her to the Learning Center. Then they come back and deliver the lunch count. Nicole is teaching Sabrina to get the lunch count clipboard on her own and then to bring it to me. Sabrina and I trace the number and practice saying it. When they get back Sabrina is learning to put it back where it belongs.

Each day is different depending on library, PE, speech, etc. After the mid morning trip to the learning center I’m usually finishing up with math. So, I may be sitting at the big table. One of my wishes for Sabrina was to work in different areas of the room. We’ve starting a “math station” there for Sabrina. Sabrina comes right over to the table and sits next to me. Then we’ll either count pom poms (big soft ones!) while putting them in a container or she’ll put stuffing in the sock. I’m most happy that Sabrina is moving around the room with purpose. The environment has meaning for her. She knows what to do when she is in certain areas.

Sabrina’s “dance card” is always full. The kids love the opportunity to read with Sabrina. Sometimes I’m a bit jealous that she listens to them read better than with me one on one. Kind of funny. We’re moving beyond just having the kids read. They’ve been taught how to count and use flash cards with Sabrina. When we go places as a class, Sabrina is often with one of the kids instead of me or Nicole. Today Nicole was in the front of the line taking the class to the assembly, Sabrina and her friends were in the middle, and I was at the end. She was completely happy and independent of an adult.

We’ve told you about how Sabrina is learning “first, then…” We usually have her do two jobs and then will sing. Sometimes it’s whole class singing, but often I’ll give the class their assignment and allow those that want to sing to come over. It’s worked out nicely. Our day continues to move smoothly, Sabrina earns her reward, kids get to choose. It’s all good.

I’m sure there were more exact moments I wanted to share. I may be getting off track. Like I said, last week felt like a new benchmark. And, today at the assembly just literally put me up on the moon ready to carve my message. I walked right over to Gail Phinney (school psychologist) and pointed out where Sabrina and Talon were sitting. She almost cried. I had to stop myself from interrupting Linda on stage. Sabrina has been watching the class sit quietly and listen. She may not listen to the parent reading the story on Fridays, but she is watching what the kids are doing. You know this… she loves to watch the kids. During the assembly today she kept her eye on Talon and the kids around her. We reaped our reward today. Today is why you worked so hard for Sabrina to attend Oak Chan.

(note from me:  When Sabrina started there, she wouldn’t sit for an assembly.  Too overwhelming.  During the assembly that her teacher referenced above, Sabrina sat with a friend and without her aide for the entire assembly, not getting up once.  That’s huge for her.)

The funny part about today is this though…. Nicole and I were talking about last week and how much Sabrina has grown. And I said something like, “This is her new typical day. So, pretty soon, we won’t be saying ‘Sabrina listened to the story today’ we’ll be saying ‘gee, Sabrina was off today and didn’t listen.” Our expectations are growing and changing as Sabrina progresses. Then we had the amazing half hour of perfect assembly behavior. Nicole and I were grinning from ear to ear. Then Elizabeth came in while I was reading to the class. I swear children have a sixth sense….. Sabrina was getting up, she was whiteboard markers, she walked behind my rocking chair, grabbed books off the shelf… so funny in a way…. it was like she had a sense that Nicole and I wanted to show off to Elizabeth. She did eventually sit for most of the story. But, it was kind of a funny moment. The point still being… our expectations for Sabrina will always continue to grow. And, she is meeting them.

Your daughter is a beautiful child. She makes me smile. She is a good friend to her classmates. Sabrina makes the kids feel good about themselves. They love to see her learn. They love to be a part of that. Talon looked over at me several times during today’s assembly to share a thumbs up and a wave. Truly a priceless moment.

I’m sending without proofreading. At least I can sleep now that I have some of that off my brain. I’ve been wanting to write for several days.

I’ll talk to you later!!!

Being Enough

(Disclaimer: I wrote this post, like most of my posts, late at night when the brain isn’t functioning as well as it could be.  Grammar errors are easy to miss at this time.  My main thoughts, which were nice and clear while driving or while in the shower, turn into rambling sentences that don’t flow. Yet I know that if I wait for perfection and don’t push the Publish button, I will get busy and it won’t happen.  So, please excuse any errors or rambling that may occur.  Sleep is usually calling.)

I’ve spent Sabrina’s whole life feeling like I haven’t done enough for her.

Not in a I-want-the-best-for-her-like-all-parents-do kind of way.

But in the anxiety-producing-pit-in-the-stomach kind of way.  The kind that can set me into a complete panic out of the blue.  The kind that is completely dibilating.

I have a vision in my head of what Sabrina needs to thrive, and the guilt for not giving it to her can be overwhelming.

But the reality is that the list of items on my to do list has always been unrealistic.  Doing physical therapy exercises, working on zoo phonics, math, literacy skills, modifying books and curriculum, maintaining a sensory diet, implementing a PECS program, researching homeopathic options that help her body, practicing her speech and music therapy drills daily, working on her social skills goals, etc, etc, etc. The list really does go on and on, and it has for 8 years now.

Like all people, I have strengths and weaknesses. I have things that I enjoy and things that I don’t.  I am not a very patient person. As much as I love time with my girls and my family, I also need a lot of time alone.  I am fairly social and I need time with friends. I am not a teacher.  While I am good at planning a lesson plan for her, I’m not good at carrying it out.  I am NOT GOOD at a lot of the stuff that I am *supposed* to do with her.

I am part of a wonderful group called The Abundant Mama Project. We have monthly themes we focus on, and November’s theme was Enoughness- feeling like what you have in life is Enough, and most importantly, that YOU are Enough.  I’ve been thinking a lot about how this feeling of Enoughness (or lack of it) plays out in my relationship with Sabrina.

I really wasn’t feeling like I was Enough for her.  Not patient enough, not enough of a teacher, not organized enough, blah blah.

The reality is that for the first time in Sabrina’s life, I no longer feel like I’m not doing enough for her.

Sabrina is thriving at school and outside of school. She’s spending her day challenged, in a setting that is positive and nurturing. She’s working on her academics alongside her peers.  She has a ton of social opportunities at school.  She gets rich communication opportunities, she gets to feel good about herself by completing jobs, she is in an environment where she knows people and feels good about where she is.  She loves going to school, and I know that she’s doing so much learning and taking all of it in.

I’ve been able to let go of all of the *shoulds* on my list because I know that she’s getting these experiences in school.  And it’s OK for me to just be mom at home and to enjoy her, or to encourage her to play by herself so that I can get things done.   I feel a lot less guilt.

Sure, a large part of this is due to Sabrina’s wonderful team at school, especially her teacher, Instructional Assistant, Speech Therapist, and Program Specialist.

But a large part of it has to do with the fact although Sabrina may not have gotten a super patient, calm mom who enjoys sitting for hours at the table teaching, she did get one who enjoys and is (kindof) good at advocating for her.  And that’s something really important for Sabrina’s mom to have.

I don’t have to be EVERYTHING to Sabrina.  I need to use my strengths to the best of my ability, and let go of the rest as much as I can.

Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes

THE BEST THINGAVAILABLE

I don’t think that I’ve ever really shared the story of when I first brought up wanting Sabrina in a regular classroom.  I have had to be careful with what I post on this blog and Facebook page.  I never thought that this would eventually reach as many people as it has.  I never lie.  But I am very aware that I have a lot of different people reading my posts.  Some work for the district.  Some are other parents who live within the district and know the people who work with my child.  Sometimes it’s been for confidentiality purposes.  I am big on that.  If someone tells me something in confidentiality, I honor it. And honestly, some stories have been too painful to write. At least when they happen.  So I never lie, but at times I have chosen to not share certain stories.  However, even though my wish is to stay positive and inspire people, I also want to be able to speak the truth.  People need to know that it’s not easy.  And knowing that it wouldn’t be easy is what inspired me to hold my ground and stay true to what I felt was right for Sabrina and for our family.    And with time, the stories become easier to share.

And so, in case I’ve never shared it, here’s the day that officially started us down this journey.

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Speaking my mind was never a skill of mine when I was growing up.  I was shy and it wasn’t something I was ever really taught.

Well, nothing has the ability to change who you are and what you can do more than when you feel something isn’t right for your child.  That’s when Mama Bear comes out.

And so, a year and a half ago, with a shaky voice, I stood up and let Sabrina’s entire school team know what I felt deep down in my heart was the best thing for Sabrina and for our family- that she receive her education at our home school.  I wanted her placed in a regular classroom.

Looking back, I wish that I had the foresight to have my husband snap photos of the faces around the room.  It wasn’t at all funny then, but I can see the humor in it now.  Good thing there weren’t any flies in the room.

I held my ground.  I tried to educate.  And that’s when a lot of well-meaning people started trying to convince me that I was making a wrong decision.  She would be bullied, they said.  It wasn’t possible that she be included, they said.  She would be a disruption to the other children, they said.  Didn’t I realize that I was acually putting her in a much more restrictive environment by requiring her to have an aide, they asked.  They told me that she wasn’t even interested in other children and never even watched them, so she wouldn’t get anything out of a regular classroom.  And my personal favorite- that she wouldn’t have any friends and would be completely isolated.  The irony of this never occurred to them.  Yes, my daughter is so severely disabled that there is no possible way that any “regular” child would ever want to be friends with her, so it’s best to isolate her in a classroom with a small number of children, so that she and the other children are never even given the chance. How little did they think of Sabrina and of those other children who are at Sabrina’s home school?   They made me feel like I was crazy and so far removed from reality that I obviously didn’t understand the level of my daughter’s disability (trust me, I live with her and have known her since she was -9 months old.  I did.)  I was made to feel crazy that I could think that my daughter, who has a severe disability could possibly have anything to offer those other children.  I was told that she needed a very small group environment, by people who never even considered that perhaps the reason she could only tolerate a small group environment is because that’s all she had ever been given a chance to experience.  I can go on and on.  And so it took everything that I had to stand my ground.  But those ignorant comments made me want to stand my ground even more.  I couldn’t walk away and accept comments such as those.

There have been a few tears and a whole lot of frustration along the way.  I was fortunate to also have the encouragement from parents who had gone before me, as well as professionals in the education field.  People who told me that it was in fact possible, and encouraged me to stay strong, and reminded me that I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

Here we are 1.5 years later.  It’s not perfect.  But it’s good.  And sometimes it’s just great.  Like when I get an email like the one below from Sabrina’s teacher.  Sabrina can never be included and part of the classroom?  She won’t have friends?  She’ll be bullied?  Take THAT, nay sayers. :-)

(I know a lot of you have already read the email on the Inclusion For Sabrina Facebook page, but just in case you haven’t, it’s at the bottom of this post.)

I will continue to encounter well meaning people who are either ignorant or just don’t want to put in the time to go outside of the status quo.  Hopefully Sabrina can continue to educate people on the benefits of an inclusive environment and the benefits of having her in the community.  Let’s face it, I blog and post, but it’s Sabrina who’s done a lot to change people’s minds and hearts.

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The note from Mrs. Preto, Sabrina’s teacher (the first couple of sentences was edited just to remove some non-relevant chit chat):

Hi Nelia! I have (non-relevant info removed) a smile in my heart as I think of your daughter. Where to start….? Well, the kids LOVE Sabrina! They want to be with her, sing to her, dance with her, write notes for her, and help her in anyway they can. I’m so proud of the class. They’re learning to break away from their work to sing a song with Sabrina and then get right back to work. Sabrina is an important member of the class. The kids really care about her. Our morning routine is really starting to take shape. We’re reading the phonics books for the first ten or fifteen minutes each morning. Sabrina is sitting longer for them. She’s not as familiar with the stories, but she’s making good progress staying with that task of listening. Today was the absolute best story time. I read Doggone Dogs. Sabrina sat next to me on a crate bench. She turned the pages and was reading with me towards the end of story. We dance every day. Sabrina is learning more moves that go with the different songs. We love to see her shake her hands and run in place. In between stories and songs Sabrina is busy counting, writing, sorting, and listening to stories. My personal favorite moment of the day is always when Sabrina takes my hand to walk around the room visiting friends.  I’m so happy with Sabrina in my room and I just wanted you to know how much her happiness means to me and everyone in my room. :-)

Mrs. Brown Went to Town, or Getting Sabrina to participate

I say it over and over again. One of the main reasons we wanted Sabrina in a general education environment was so that she could learn how to live in the community, and her community could learn to live with her. How to live in the community is very important to us. That’s our main goal. Our goals for Sabrina’s learning are different from most of the kids in her class. Different, but not less important.

Last week Ken and I sat down with Sabrina’s team.  One of the topics was how Sabrina could spend more meaningful time in the classroom.  Her teacher brought up reading time as a potential area of growth for Sabrina.  She spoke about Sabrina’s lack of interest in coming to the floor with the rest of the class for reading time- she prefers to sit at her desk and isn’t engaging with the story.  She mentioned this as an area where she felt Sabrina could participate and suggested that we pre-read the Reading textbook to Sabrina with the goal that perhaps by Friday she would be ready to join the other children during that reading time.  We took the book home and over the weekend we read it to Sabrina a few times.

Here are excerpts from the email communication that happened between me and her teacher that following week:

From me that Sunday: “Thank you for loaning me the Houghton Mifflin Reading book and for sending home the “pig book” for Sabrina… We have been reading her this week’s story “Mrs. Brown Went to Town” over the weekend. She was not interested in it the first time or two, but now sits through the whole story.”

From her teacher on Monday: “Sabrina came to sit on the floor with the early readers this morning. She’s never done that before.  ….I thought I would read Mrs. Brown…Sabrina sat through 2 pages and looked at the book the whole time.  This was a great step for her!”

From me on Tuesday: “Just a side note that Sabrina is now carrying that Houghton Mifflin reading book around with her all over the house and constantly asking us to read it to her!”

(Sabrina was home sick from school on Tuesday and Wednesday.)

From her teacher on Thursday: “Yay!  Sabrina sat and listened to the entire story of Mrs. Brown.  She smiled at me while I read and had eye contact with me or the book for most of the story.”

And so there it is. On her second day of being in school after first introducing it, she came to the floor with the rest of the class and was engaged with the entire story.

This little story says a lot about inclusion:

Her teacher saw an area of growth for Sabrina.  Instead of taking the position of “She’s having behaviors and won’t do it”, she took a collaborative, positive, problem-solving position of “How can we help her do this?”.  She used information she knew about Sabrina- that she likes familiar stories- and used it to find a simple teaching strategy to help.

Her teacher clearly understands that the goals for Sabrina may be very different from the others in her class, but that they’re not any less important.   Her excitement with Sabrina’s progress clearly comes through in her emails.  She cares.  A lot.

Sabrina is participating on her own level with the rest of the class.  She may not be able to answer the kinds of questions that the rest of the class is answering about the story.  But she can work on a lot of her other speech and academic goals through this story, the same story her peers are engaged in.

Everyone talks a lot about the benefits of inclusion on the special needs child.  But how about the studies that show that it benefits the other children in the class?  The stuff going on here- collaboration, problem-solving, modifying the lesson for different learners- it helps all children.

Oh, I can go on and on.  And I will in another post.  :-)

I’m just in love with some of the things that are going on this year.

 

An unconventional To Do list

“have a tickle fest with the girls”
“be completely present during the afternoon”
“sit down on the couch and read to the girls”

These are some of the action items that have been on my To Do list this past week.

I’ve have very recently discovered Abundant Mama.  Check it out.   It’s about finding peace, playfulness, and connection amidst the craziness that is motherhood.  I signed up for Shawn’s 10 Day Rise & Shine Challenge because I was looking for inspiration to continue the recent habit I had taken up- getting up early before the rest of the family.  One thing Shawn suggested in that Challenge was to think daily about what it is that I am feeling that I need, and to pick the top one that will make that day the best day it can be.  This challenged me to think about my day in a different way.  Rather than thinking about traditional To Do’s, it got me thinking about what I truly need that day in a broader sense.  I started including things on my To Do list that allowed me to stop and enjoy moments.  More connection with my girls.  More being present.  I still put traditional To Do’s on my list, of course, but I also added to my list things that encouraged me to really be present and connect with my children and with the day.  I do believe that sometimes it’s completely necessary to have a “get a lot of stuff done” day.  But I was finding that most of my days were like that.  I was getting lost in all of life’s to do’s and not stopping to just enjoy the small moments, to enjoy life with my family.  It’s true what they say “The days are long, but the years are short.”

I also started writing down an intention for the day.  My intention has been the same for the past week:

“When my child’s behavior escalates, I will respond in a calm and loving manner, and I will ask myself  “how do I want her to remember this moment?”

I wrote this intention with Alexa in mind.  I find myself becoming very frustrated with how fast her mood changes and how quickly she can escalate from completely fine to completely whiny and in meltdown mode.

Last week was a great week to set this intention.  She went back to school (preschool 3 mornings a week), wasn’t feeling 100%, and has recently stopped napping.  I set the intention and on that same day I had a wonderful opportunity to put it into action.  After picking her up at school, she had one of those meltdowns.  The I’m-Over-Tired-And-Not-Feeling-Well-So-I’m-Going-To -Go-Ballistic Kind of meltdown.  Through her hysterical crying she told me that she needed my help “calming her body down”.  So I laid down with her in her bed and as difficult as it was, I remained calm.  In a low and patient voice, I soothed her.  After what seemed like an eternity, she sobbed “Mommy, can I please have some princess oils?”.  “Princess oils” are essential oils that I have been using on the girls.  There’s one in particular that I use that promotes calming.  “Do you want the Calming?”, I asked.  She nodded.  “And cold water with ice”.  By the time I got back with those items, she had calmed down a lot.  I put the oils on her and gave her the water.  I laid down with her again. She turned to me, lifted her little hand to push my hair out of my face, and said “Mommy?  I love you.  You’re the best mommy in the world.”   The look in her eye told me that she understood and appreciated the patience I had shown her.  Believe me, it doesn’t always happen that way.  Remaining calm when a child is pushing all of your buttons is HARD.  Having that sentence to repeat in my head helped me remain calm and respond rationally.

If you’re reading this, I challenge you to add a “To-Do” action item to your list that will help you be more present with your family, or that will create some silliness, fun, and laughter in your household.  Here are a few ideas to get your started:

*”unplug” between the hours of xx and xxx.  No computer, cell phone, or TV.  Be present.
*put on music and have a mini-dance party
*if you have small children, be a “tickle monster” and run around catching your child/children
*take an hour for yourself and get a pedicure
*find a quote that speaks to you and write it on your calendar or post it on your refrigerator and let that be your “intention” for the day or for the week.

What are you doing to do to take care of yourself or your family tomorrow?  Let me know in the comments!