This morning as Alaina was waking me up for hugs and kisses before camp, she suddenly sang me a little song.
Apparently, Matt had read Love You Forever, written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Sheila McGraw, to Alaina this morning, which must have inspired her. Her song was a beautiful gift on a morning I definitely needed it.
While it isn’t unusual for Alaina to sing me a song if I ask her to, it is quite unusual for her to sing one unsolicited. That made it all the more special.
So what sort of special gifts have your kiddos given you that really touched you?
Note: This is the post I’ve NEEDED, and been unable, to write for the past few months. Please bear with me as I attempt to put months of worrying into words.
Alaina will be repeating kindergarten next school year.
There I’ve said it, or more accurately, I’ve written it.
This may be old news to many of you. As Matt and I struggled to decide what was best for Alaina, I’ve reached out to a number of you. You’ve given me good advice, you’ve comforted me when I agonized over this decision, and for that, I thank you.
This decision has been the elephant in the room at our home this year. Yes, this entire year. And it is the reason I haven’t been blogging much. When it came to my child, THIS was what on my mind and my heart. THIS was what kept me awake at night. THIS was what made me sick to my stomach.
But I couldn’t write about it. Part of me felt I needed to protect Alaina from others knowing that she was struggling. Part of me felt it didn’t do much good to talk publicly about it until we knew what we were going to do. After all, if she suddenly had a major breakthrough in the last few weeks of kindergarten, why put her struggles out there?
And part of me just hurt and was angry — why was my child struggling? Hasn’t she struggled enough? When does she just get to enjoy childhood?
If you are new to this blog — aka you can’t remember when it was called Baby and the Beasts — you may be completely confused now. So let’s go back to the very beginning.
Alaina was born July 26, 2009. She was a full-term baby — actually she was four days overdue, which I mention because it was JULY in ARKANSAS! It was hot and I was really fat and ready to get the whole pregnancy business over with! I went into labor on a Saturday night, was given pitocin on Sunday morning to up the contractions and then proceeded over the next 5 1/2 hours to dilate to approximately the width of a pinkie finger. Alaina entered this world through a C-section.
Life was good.
She was healthy, and she and Matt slept in my room that first night. Matt woke me up every two hours to feed her, just like the nurses told us too. I was exhausted, but so very happy.
The next morning I sent Matt home to take a shower and pick up a few thing we had forgotten to pack. The lactation consultant came in to help me with nursing, and my world came crashing down.
While the consultant was changing Alaina’s diaper to get her to wake up to nurse, she realized Alaina was pooping vaginally. A flurry of activity then ensued. Someone from the nursery came to take Alaina. That nurse called the pediatrician who had examined Alaina that morning and found her to be perfectly healthy back to the hospital. I called Matt in tears and told him what was happening. He rushed back to the hospital.
In short order, we were told that Alaina had an imperforate anus (she had no anal opening) with a vaginal fistula. Because Alaina could poop (and was doing so a lot), the doctor and nurses had missed the malformation. But Alaina needed immediate surgery, so she was whisked to Arkansas Children’s Hospital. She would spend the next 12 days recovering from a surgery to create stomas so she could poop into an ostomy bag.
She had a bag for just shy of six months. At the third month, she had a surgery to create an anal opening. Once that healed, her stomas were closed off to allow her to poop normally. Or almost normally. She doesn’t have all of the nerves that most of us have, so she doesn’t get as much warning that she needs to go. And her muscles aren’t nearly as effective at buying her time to get the bathroom. Accidents happen — and this year, they happened a lot.
But she isn’t repeating kindergarten because of poop.
After the surgeries, Alaina had a physical developmental delay. She was slow to crawl and slow to walk. When she was about 18 months old, Alaina started physical therapy, which she has been in ever since. Her core muscles are weak, which leads to weakness in her extremities. It just never occurred to us that those muscles would get in the way of her education — but they did.
We were a little nervous about sending Alaina to kindergarten this school year. She turned 5 a mere six days before the Aug. 1 cut-off. But the teachers at Alaina’s preschool thought she was ready, so off she went.
She had a wonderful kindergarten teacher, who at the first parent-teacher conference brought in two therapists and the school’s counselor to set up a 504 plan for Alaina. We decided she needed 30 minutes, twice a week, of physical therapy and occupational therapy. She also continued her hour of physical therapy a week at a private clinic. For the first time since Alaina aged out of the Early Child Intervention program at 3 years old, she was getting all of the physical therapy that her doctor wanted her to have. (Our insurance capped at 30 the number of sessions a year they would pay for and unfortunately, I didn’t know we could petition for more sessions until much later.)
Other physical accommodations were made for Alaina as well, such as a special chair to give her more support in the computer room, where the desks were much too large for her.
That meeting was the first sign for us that Alaina’s physical delays were going to be a problem in kindergarten. The teacher and therapists told us Alaina seemed to tired all of the time, especially in the afternoons. At first I thought she was just missing her nap — but really she had really already given up the nap, except in rare circumstances.
So Matt and I took Alaina to various doctors, who could find no answer for the tiredness. We and Alaina’s 504 team finally decided that she used up so much more energy than other children just sitting up in a chair all day. Without strong core muscles, it required real effort for her to sit still or to hold herself in the proper writing position so she could work on her letters and numbers.
But as the therapy continued, Alaina started to make real progress. Her climbing and running improved. She could do sit ups if someone held her feet. Before this year, Alaina couldn’t do a sit up — the muscles in her stomach simply weren’t strong enough.
Academically, Alaina excelled in some areas, while struggling in others. In one of those things that surprised absolutely no one, Alaina is doing well in reading. I guess that is to be expected when mom is a journalist and dad is a college-level English and composition instructor. If there is one thing we do a lot at our house, it is read.
Math was another matter. She just wasn’t making progress in that subject at school, although she could answer math questions at home. It wasn’t until the end of the school year when we finally realized what might be the problem — math was taught at the end of the day.
Alaina’s energy stores were depleted by then. And with only a 20-minute lunch time, she wasn’t having enough time to eat enough food to recharge. In February we had started sending a lunch from home so she could avoid the line, but it wasn’t enough — or maybe it was too little, too late. (In good news, we’ve written an in-class snack into her 504 plan for next year in hopes that it will help her be more productive in the afternoons.)
And then there was writing. Writing was where all of Alaina’s physical weaknesses just seemed to conspire against her. While she made progress, she was still well behind where she needed to be to move on to first grade.
So in late February at parent/teacher conferences, Alaina’s 504 team brought up retention with us. I can’t say that we were surprised — Matt and I had already discussed our concerns that she might not be ready. Elementary school has changed a lot since I was kid. Kindergarten is basically what first grade (and maybe a bit of second) was for us. I’m not sure, but I think they may introduce algebra in first grade now. *kidding, sorta*
But either way, it was a punch to the gut to hear the words. I was pretty stoic in the first half of the meeting, but eventually, I broke down. I just couldn’t help it — my heart hurt so much for my little girl. I wondered how we’d tell her that she wasn’t going to move up with her friends. I was afraid kids would make fun of her. I was afraid her self-esteem would be crushed.
After the shock passed, I told a few people. I also reached out to some teachers I’ve known for years and asked them if they would assess Alaina. Their assessments confirmed what we were hearing from educators at Alaina’s school. She wasn’t ready for first grade.
By late April, Matt and I had made our decision to retain Alaina. But we didn’t tell her until after we had signed the formal paperwork in mid-May.
She seemed completely unfazed by the news. I hope that remains the case. I can’t bear the thought of her sweet little spirit being dinged or damaged by this. I pray that other children are kind. I pray her new classmates never realize this is her second round of kindergarten. (The good news is she is pretty small, so she won’t stand out in that way.) I hope that her classmates from this past year don’t tease her. I know I can’t protect her from injuries and slights forever, but that doesn’t keep me from trying.
And now I’ve told you.
I’ve debated about this post. Is it right to discuss my daughter’s struggles in this forum? Is this even my story to tell? This blog, from its earliest incarnation to now, has always been Alaina-focused. I’ve talked about her health problems, her therapy, her successes, her struggles. But this post felt different — I wondered if this would be something she would resent me writing about when she was older.
I wrestled with these questions for months and in the end, I had to write this post. If I didn’t, I don’t think I would have been able to continue this blog. This has been on my heart all year — for six very long months. If I chose not to tell this story, I would have been lying — to you and to myself.
So I end this post with a request for prayers (from those of you who pray) or for good thoughts (from those of you who don’t.) Please pray that this next year is exactly what Alaina needs — and that she has a wonderful kindergarten redux.
And pray for me, specifically that I have peace. There are moments when I see my friends’ children doing so well at school and in sports, and I am jealous. I am happy for them, but I also want to scream, ‘WHY must my child struggle so much?’ ‘When does she get that childhood?’ I rage and I hurt. But then I see friends whose children are struggling much more than my child ever has. I see friends whose sons are battling Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a fatal condition that has seen numerous research breakthroughs in recent years, but still no cure. I see a high school friend whose beautiful baby was diagnosed with cancer just shy of her first birthday. That beautiful child smiles in all of her pictures on Facebook, even as she undergoes chemotherapy. In those moments, I am humbled. I weep. I remember I am blessed, and I finally feel peace.
And with peace, I remember that life and parenting are not always easy, but they are wonderful.
I’ve been a bit quiet here these past few months. In fact, I think I could describe it as radio silence.
There was lots of stuff going on in my world, but none of it was being broadcast because it just wasn’t the right time to share it with all of you. There were things I wanted to talk about, but I couldn’t. And to write about things that mattered less than what kept me awake at night, well that just didn’t seem right. So, radio silence.
But now I’m ready for the words to flow again.
I have lots to tell you about — Alaina’s struggles with kindergarten; my MS fatigue.
So stay tuned. The radio silence is over.
With Mother’s Day rapidly approaching, the hunt for the perfect gift for mom is on. Well have no fear, Little Rock Mamas and The Promenade at Chenal are here to help with our annual Mother’s Day Gift Guide.
Whether your mom loves jewelry, candles, knickknacks, exotic cooking supplies or a sweet treat, we’ve got plenty of ideas to help you make her feel appreciated.
If you’ve never been to Francesca’s, you are missing out. This boutique is packed full of cute clothes, jewelry and accessories! Plus, they’ve got some great Mother’s Day gifts and cards to choose from right now. In fact, I found a great card for my mom while I was snapping these pictures. Shhh, don’t tell her. 😉
Altar’d State is one of those stores where you just feel good about shopping because the company is a big believer in giving back. On Mission Mondays, the company donates 10 percent of net proceeds to a local charity. And a portion of every purchase of their in-house clothing line goes to charity. Plus, they have the cutest stuff!
Saggio Olive Oils & Vinegars
If mom loves good food, then Saggio is a great place to look for her gift. Whether you opt for their wonderful oils, vinegars or spices or choose from their stylish table accessories, mom is sure to be pleased. Saggio also sells gorgeous gold bracelets by Ronaldo, which currently are 20 percent off for Mother’s Day!
Speaking of great food, have you discovered Cafe Brunelle yet? This charming, locally-owned coffee shop is located behind lululemon athletica at The Promenade. Want to surprise mom with some tasty treats on Mother’s Day? Cafe Brunelle has macaroons ($8.99) and toffee ($6.50) packaged in gift boxes and bags, ready to go home with you. Maybe you’re thinking you’d like to give mom a cake? Cafe Brunelle sells whole cakes (double layer) for $40 and whole cheesecakes for $45. They need about three days for a specialty order. Or maybe you think mom would love an afternoon to herself. A gift card to Cafe Brunelle will allow mom to relax and unwind in their warm and inviting space. You could pair it with a mani/pedi at Luxury Nails Spa for an afternoon of mom time!
Kenneth Edwards Fine Jewelers
Are you looking to give mom something really special this year? Then check out Kenneth Edwards. The store’s helpful employees will help you find a beautiful piece of jewelry that is sure to take mom’s breath away and bring a smile to her face every time she puts it on.
I hope this has given you some great ideas for Mother’s Day. Whatever you pick up for mom, just give it with lots of love — and she will love it!
Note: This is a sponsored post. All items in this gift guide were selected by me, with the help of sales associates, and all opinions are mine.
Sometimes with all of the hustle and bustle of life, we just need to stop and breathe and be still.
This week is MS Awareness Week (March 2-8) and I’ve been trying to figure out what to say about this disease that I haven’t said here before. Last year, I shared with you the story of my initial episode and diagnosis with multiple sclerosis.
A year later, much of what I wrote about how MS is affecting me is still true. No relapses for me (yay!) and my MRI last month showed no changes in my brain (double yay!)
But even with that great news, MS still manages to take a toll. My fatigue these past few months has been the worst since my diagnosis. There are just some days that getting dressed and getting to work feels like the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest. And that just sucks.
Those are the days I don’t feel like a Lucky Mama. Those are the days where I want to curl up and cry and mourn the life I used to have. Those are the days I feel like a failure because I don’t have the energy to play with my daughter. Those are the days I allow myself a little pity party.
But then I remember that I am a Lucky Mama. I can still walk; I can still work; I can still see; I can still muster enough energy to take my child to the zoo on good days. I think of my friend Dawn who suffered a terrible MS relapse last summer, followed by a stroke. Those two events put her in a wheelchair and made it terribly difficult for her to speak. But she hasn’t given up — she is fighting to walk again and be able to again speak publicly about life with MS. And I believe that she will.
I think of other friends who fight MS every day — and never give up.
I remember that I have an incredible support system. My husband, my daughter, my parents and sisters and their families, my husband’s family and my friends — all have encouraged me every step of this journey. Thanks to a Facebook support group, I have met people who have no support from their family and friends. They are navigating MS on their own — I can’t imagine how difficult that must be.
I also remember that I have my faith — and that no matter how cruddy I feel, God is always there to listen to me and help pick me up.
So on those pity party days, I have to remind myself that I am one Lucky Mama. And I want to thank everyone who plays a part in reminding me of that.
Congratulations to Patre Williams, you are the winner of two ticket books to the Women’s SEC Basketball Tournament! Check your inbox, an email from Little Rock Mamas should be waiting on you!
The Women’s SEC Basketball Tournament kicks off Wednesday, March 4, at 6 p.m. at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock — and here at Little Rock Mamas, we have tickets.
In fact, we have tickets to all of the games, thanks to the Angela Rogers Group, which has provided us with 2 ticket books, worth $100 each, to give away to a very lucky basketball fan.
According to the tournament’s website, a ticket book contains seven tickets, one for each session, which allows 1 person to attend all 13 games. Sessions on Wednesday and Thursday will be all general admission seating. Each ticket book will include a general admission ticket for the Wednesday evening, Thursday afternoon and Thursday evening sessions and a reserved seat ticket for Friday, Saturday and Sunday sessions.
Can you beat 5 days of Women’s SEC basketball?!?! This promises to be some great basketball — South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi State are all in the Top 25!
The tournament kicks off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with two games. (The second game in each of these sessions starts 25 minutes after the first game concludes.) On Thursday and Friday, four games will be played each day. The first session on both days will start at noon, while the second batch will start at 6 p.m. On Saturday, two games will be played, starting at 4 p.m. On Sunday, March 8, the championship game starts at 2:30 p.m.
Are you excited yet?
To enter to win, leave me a comment on this post (not our Facebook page) by MONDAY at NOON about why you’d like to attend the tournament and who you’d take with you. A winner will be randomly drawn Monday afternoon. You must be able to pick up the ticket books from downtown Little Rock.
Even if you aren’t our lucky winner, you can still go watch some great Women’s SEC basketball. Check out the info below on where to get tickets.
Today is a MOMENTOUS birthday for my sister Sonda! I won’t reveal her age, but I will point out that this is a BIG birthday! A black balloon sort of birthday, even! 😉
And in one of those twists of fate that I have always loved, yesterday was her husband’s birthday! He is exactly one day older than Sonda. And they are both much, much older than me. *teehee*
So HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Sonda and Kevin! Love you guys!
Alaina’s kindergarten class studied about the Statue of Liberty the other day. She was so proud to show off her crown and torch. I think she makes a pretty good Lady Liberty.
NOTE: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are mine and all items featured in this gift guide were chosen by Little Rock Mamas.
It is almost Valentine’s Day — the holiday that sends us all into a tizzy trying to find a gift that screams, “I love you!” Whew, that is a lot of pressure. But have no fear, the Little Rock Mamas’ gift guide is here. I have scouted the stores at The Promenade at Chenal to offer a few suggestions for awesome gifts for the man and the kids in your life.
The Kids and Valentine’s
For many younger children, dressing up for the holidays is fun. There is just something about a festive T-shirt that just brings out the smiles. That is why this outfit from The Children’s Place would make such a great gift. You can purchase the entire look OR select a piece or two. I can tell you that the T-shirt has a stamp of approval from my 5 year old. She looked at this picture and asked where hers was.
And Valentine’s Day attire isn’t just for the girls. Check out this great outfit from Crazy 8 for the little man who stole your heart — that Pirate T-shirt is just too cute.
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about the tweens. Justice has young girls in this age range covered. I thought the black cowboy boots and the white fringe purse were both great gift options for any mini-fashionista.
We have one last suggestion for your kiddos — what about a special treat? Maggie Moo’s combines two of the best things in the whole world — ice cream and cake — into one delicious cupcake. Yum!
The Guys and Valentine’s
Guys think that we women are hard to shop for, but we ladies know that they’re just as difficult. So here are some ideas to help you find something great for your Valentine.
Gearhead Outfitters has great items for the outdoorsman (serious or casual) in your life. Would he like a new hat? No problem, Gearhead has tons to choose from. Does he complain that his travel mug never keeps his beverage hot or cold for long? If so, check out a Yeti rambler. It promises to keep hot beverages hot for hours and that it won’t sweat with cold drinks. And Gearhead always has plenty of Patagonia sweaters, vests and other gear to choose from. I’m loving this orange sweater they just got in.
Is the man in your life a runner or otherwise fitness buff? Maybe he could use a new pair of running shoes — or a new pair of sneakers in general. Nike has tons of shoes (and other workout gear) to choose from. I thought these Nike Free 5.0+ runners in charcoal gray were the prettiest men’s sneakers I have seen in a while.
Did you know that GNC has moved into the Promenade? Wouldn’t a gift card from there make a great gift for your health-conscious sweetie?
The last stop on our shopping guide is J. Crew. The great thing about J. Crew is the variety of men’s clothing it offers. Whether you are wanting to get your husband a new dress shirt or tie or would prefer to go more casual with a polo-style top or cargo shorts, they’ve got you covered. They also sell some really cool (and sometimes quirky) accessories that might put a smile on your Valentine’s face.
The Contest and Valentine’s
There is one more thing to know before you head out to The Promenade at Chenal to start your shopping. They’re sponsoring a photo contest on Instagram. So go take a picture with your Valentine in front of The Promenade’s LOVE sign (it is located by lululemon athletica) and then post your photo on Instagram for a chance to win dinner for two, Chenal 9 IMAX movie tickets, a rose bouquet and $100 Promenade Gift Card. Go here for all of the details!