Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Life and AAC

Watching Julia's dance competition
I wrote a glowing post (on Thursday) of how Emma is doing so great with Evie at home and school and that very same day she came home with a note saying they want to talk about ways we can get her to use Evie more at school because they didn't think it was frequent enough.  I guess the note did take the wind a bit out of my sails for a moment before I realized the likely cause is musical therapists rather than Emma's ability to use her device.  I know how far she has come in using Evie in the last 6 months.  But still......comments like that might make me waiver for a moment.

I immediately recommitted to noticing how she used the device over her 3 days off - Friday, Sat., Sun.

On Friday - immediately after breakfast finished up and she finished on the potty - I asked Emma what she wanted to do.  She told me 3x she wanted to "eat".  This really confused me since she had just eaten her typical quantity of breakfast and I wanted to get on with the day.  Our method to using Evie is to reinforce Emma's request by giving her what she asks for when possible and since we didn't have much planned I went ahead and brought out some more food for her to eat.  She happily gobbled it all down.  My mind was blown!  I mean, I thought for sure she was done eating and ready for fun and she asked to eat by mistake.  No mistake, she wanted more to eat and I'm so glad I listened.  Then she asked for a drink and downed an entire cup.

Watching the crowds at the competition
Ummm....I guess I can't always read her mind.  Good thing we have Evie!  She then asked to "go" "outside" "in" "bike".  So she went for a bike ride and loved every minute of it.  She also used the device as she would typically for the rest of the day.

On Saturday we visited my Aunt at a nursing home and while in the halls she used Evie a few times.  The halls were very busy and it surprised me to hear her talk - and unprompted at that!  She only said a couple of things but they were appropriate and it is very good progress for her to use it in public.  

Sunday was busy and Emma didn't have as much access to Evie as she typically would.  Some days are like that - the fact is life is life.  Raising Emma is a marathon not a sprint and one day without a lot of access isn't life changing yet.  She isn't a consistent enough user of Evie yet to make her miss it and we are still able to use her Yes/No answers and her eye gaze to communicate effectively.  The simple fact is that some of the low tech communication methods are just as important as the high tech method because they allow us to communicate regardless of the environment or situation.  I believe not having access to Evie at all times will be a big issue at some point in the future and I am ever hopeful that will happen sooner rather than later.  Once that happens we will try our best to not let her go a good portion of a day without her device.

Emma's use of Evie is getting both more frequent and accurate indeed.  She uses it - unprompted - more and more at home.  I know she will eventually transfer this skill to school like she does all her other skills.  I'm more than willing to wait.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Something to say - AAC Update

Long post alert!  I've been asked by a few people recently to update on Emma's progress with her talker so I'm making this pretty detailed for their benefit - sorry to those who would be happy with the cliffs notes version.

Recently Emma has increased her use of Evie.  It's been about 6 months since we received and focused on using it for communication and I'm happy to update that she is starting to engage with people unprompted and is stringing together several words at a time on her own.  This is HUGE.  She doesn't do it all the time but when she does my breath catches.  In-depth communication is something I want for Emma so badly.

Emma seems to know that 90% of communication is non-verbal and she rocks the world of non-verbal communication.  The work of using a communication system generally doesn't seem worth her effort when she is with me or Chris since we can read her like a book and figure out what she wants relatively easily.  With other people, too, she can get most of her wants/needs met through her body language and she is so darn cute that people bend over backwards to try and figure out what she wants and give it to her.

I feel that we are blessed that she is so good at non-verbal communication but her wants/needs are getting more complicated as she gets older and having a more direct mode of communication will help minimize some of the frustration she is starting to encounter.

Her screen is still set up with the core vocabulary on the main page with some of the vocabulary hidden.  This gives her a chance to train her eyes for accuracy in communication and also gives her many of the words that she, as a pre-schooler, would use on a daily basis.  She is great at using the eat and drink core words.  In the fringe vocabulary on the activity row for these we have items such as ice cream, yogurt, pudding, cracker and milk, smoothie, juice.  I find that Emma is often stringing the two words together - for example, Eat Pudding - rather than just selecting eat.  She is getting really good at this one because pudding is a favorite food of her and she knows if she asks for pudding there is about a 50% chance she will get it and be able to skip the main meal if that is what I'm feeding her.  The chance of getting pudding gets closer to 100% if she says Eat Pudding Please.  My girl likes her dessert!

A few things Emma is doing now is saying Please a lot.  She is quite polite and she uses is appropriately.  For example, she might say Play Please or Drink Please.  If she seems to want something and we can't/won't give it to her - for example, she wants a drink but it's not a time when we can stop for a drink and so I tell her she will have to wait a bit - she will then say Please a couple of times and smile.  I love this.

In the Need activity row we have Hug, Kiss and a few others.  Sometimes when she is upset she will say Need Hug or Need Kiss.  I melt when this happens.  Seriously melt.  And of course she gets more hugs and kisses than the million she is showered with every day anyway just because she is so very loved.

We programmed in a few pages for school.  There is a circle time page that offers her an opportunity to engage with her friends and make some selections for their circle time routine.  We also added a PT/OT page where she can select what activity she wants to do and then offers her options for the activity.  There are a lot of her favorite activities on the screen so it gives her quite a few options and gives her a lot more control over her daily activity.  For example, she can choose Fingerpaint and then she has access to the colors menu so she can choose what color(s) she wants to use during the activity.

I've been told this has increased her interest and focus during the therapy session.  This makes perfect sense because Emma is picking what activity she wants to do so it follows that she would be interested and attend and participate better than a typical choice between two activities a therapist might present her when she might not want to do either one.  It also gives her a chance to tell them when she is done by selecting Stop and then she can pick another activity.  Her attention span is definitely that of a 5 year old!  What a great thing this is because sometimes therapists think 20 min. or more is the right amount of time for an activity and when Emma loses interest after 10 min. they could try and keep bringing her focus back and then say she lacks focus.  Not that this is a knock on anyone but it could happen.  Having access to a lot of choices on the one screen gives Emma the opportunity to communicate that she isn't just staring off into space but that she wants to Stop that activity and select what other one she wants to do.  I have a feeling that this is one of the key reasons Emma is finding the power in using Evie.  

On occasion Emma has come home with notes from school saying she has strung two words together for them during school speech sessions and classroom activities.  She has said Hello Friends during circle time and sometimes selects her morning attendance color choice with Evie rather than the laminated cards.  She also likes to play dress-up with the dolls and often selects the item from her screen to use on the dolls.

I think increased access to Evie is critical at this point and Emma now has access to Evie most of the school day.  When she is in the bicycle and maybe during some activity at gym she doesn't have it because it doesn't makes sense but otherwise she does have access to Evie and her wonderful aide models the use of Evie at all times.  We are also trying to use it more at home and in public.

Yesterday her private PT came out to get her and she said Hi.  When I asked her if she was ready to go back and play she said Go.  This was in the waiting room at the hospital which is pretty busy and kids are running about.  The fact that Emma looked at her talker and engaged in the conversation is a BIG BIG thing to me.  It might not happen again for a while, but I know she has the potential to do this more and more as we continue to model the conversations on her talker for her to learn.

Last Friday she was at a school for an evaluation and it was time to eat.  Her food was in the car so Chris went out to get it.  She said Want Daddy Eat.  She knew Chris went out to the car to get the food and she wanted him back so she could eat.  So great to know she put our entire conversation together and she wanted to chime in on it so without any prompting she strung 3 words together in a matter of seconds!  Just a month ago that could have taken about 15 minutes to get her to do with lots of prompting and likely wouldn't have happened at all without prompting.  Wowza!

We did make a change to the system on "dwell" time.  That is the length of time Emma has to look at the icon before it selects/speaks it.  It is now at 0.4 seconds, down from 0.5 seconds.  She was frustrated having to look at the icon so long and often took her eye gaze away before the 0.5 seconds were up.  That sounds like such a short period of time but it isn't.  It's hard.  I have tried it and it requires a lot of focus and energy and it's hard for me.  I realized that Emma is actually much better at using the device with eye gaze than me and it is humbling to realize that - I don't think I gave Emma enough credit on how much work she is doing to communicate.  Once we changed the dwell time to 0.4 seconds she really took off with talking and even started stringing 3 words together on occasion.  The con to this short dwell time is that she sometimes selects the next item right away in that spot, too.  It's hard to describe, but some screens are for one selection and once she makes it then it moves to other choices and there could be a choice right where she was looking and then she mistakenly selects that one.  Does that make sense?  The frequency of this happening is quite rare overall so we are willing to deal with it for the moment.

It seems like the 0.4 seconds is the right setting at this time.  It does increase the chance she might say something she didn't mean, but when it happens she usually tries to correct herself.  This shows me that there is just so much going on in her head and I can't wait to learn more about what she is thinking.  I can't wait to learn what questions she will have, what jokes or teasing she will come out with, etc.

As Emma's use of Evie starts to increase so has her vocalizations.  She is saying nonsense sometimes.  It's wonderful!  I have no idea what she is saying but she is able to get her breath together enough to string together a bunch of jibber jabber.  And she plays with her voice high and low now.  Sometimes she sings in the car with the music.  And sometimes she is making word approximations.  She says blue or red if we are working with colors.  She says yeah when she wants.  Her speech therapist notes her increase in vocalizations and word approximations, too, so it isn't just me and wishful thinking.  It has been said that use of AAC increases vocal/verbal skills in children and this certainly seems to be the case for Emma.

Emma is starting to communicate more and more with Evie.  We have our ups and downs on when she will use it because it is hard to use an eye gaze communication system or any other alternative to verbal communication.  And she is only 5 years old - she's a baby really.  She has lots of therapies each day and everything requires her to work hard and then there is the extra energy she has to funnel to communication and eating.  Despite all of this she seems to be realizing the power Evie will give her over her own life and is choosing more frequently to engage with others through Evie in addition to her body language.

Our Emma.  She is amazing.  She inspires me.  I am humbled by the way she radiates happiness and smiles every day despite her many challenges.  How lucky we are to have our little sunshine in our lives.

Here is ~4 min. video of Emma using Evie this morning.  She was nice and humored me when I told her I wanted to get a video of her using it to share with others.  Usually Emma clams up when a camera comes out but this time she did say quite a bit.  Almost all of the talk on Evie came from Emma except a couple of times when you see me use my finger to select a choice.  For the In selection when Emma chose crawler I focused a bit on the options because they are new and Emma is still learning that row and the icons are rather hard to make out.  It's hard to listen to myself on this video so please go easy on me if you make any comments ;-)

I know Emma is blinking a lot in the video - she had only just gotten her CIs on and it takes a bit of time for her to warm up to them in the morning.  I could comment more on this, but I won't other than to say that she was on the program she uses after her CI have been on for about 30 minutes rather than the program for the first 30 minutes.  Just know that I have the blinking issue handled.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

One step at a time

Emma all dressed up for a lunch cruise on the river.  It was a wonderful Emma/Mommy date!
The journey to find a kindergarten placement for Emma has been filled with anxiety for this Mommy.  It feels like it is a big decision and one we are not likely to change easily.  We are told you can change the IEP up once it is started, but my experience is that it is easier said than done so we are hoping to get it right the first time around.

We have toured the options the school district suggested.  None of them were a slam dunk.  We do have pretty significant ideas on what type of classroom, therapies, etc. we want for Emma and I think our visits to the schools clarified our vision so I'm very thankful for that.

It looks like we will be working with the district to find out exactly how individual they are willing to get for Emma's IEP (consider yourself blessed if you don't know what an IEP is - it stands for Individual Education Plan for those new to education & disabilites speak).  I've put a call into our district coordinator to start the discussions.

We are hopeful that it will come together, but I am sure that I will have a lot of angst until it does.  Hey, another few gray hairs on my head will likely go unnoticed!

I joke, but would really appreciate any prayers you could send our way until this is all settled.  Fingers crossed it will be before the new school year!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!  I have my B.S. in Environmental Science and it is very important to me that we try and tread lightly on our planet.  Our family likely has a large carbon footprint but we are working to bring it down. We recycle almost everything we can, buy items with minimal packaging, reuse bags and are trying to adopt new habits that are more environmentally friendly such as: buying from farmer's markets, walking/biking more instead of driving to local places, and hanging our clothes to dry in nice weather.

I was happy to hear that Julia is learning about Earth Day in school and she was very surprised to find out that she did not have off from school for this holiday.  That gave me a bit of a chuckle.  I know her school marked the day with Earth Day friendly activities and think Emma's class unit on spring will cover Earth Day topics like growing gardens.  I'm thinking it would be a good time to ask Emma about her school activities and see what activities Julia and Emma had in common.  Fun idea, right?  Let's see how much Emma wants to tell us...she is the nosy, silent type.

I'm not the best green thumb but can usually manage to grow some vegetables in the summer.  I already have some lettuce and hope to plant a bit of cucumber, tomato and peppers.  Maybe a few other veggies, too, depending on when I get around to the planting.  I've asked Chris to make us a raised vegetable garden container that is height adjusted so we can roll Emma's wheelchair under it and she can help with the garden.  I think getting her hands dirty and helping to pull off the fruit will appeal to her.  It also addresses my desire to use clean soil for the garden and having it as a raised bed will eliminate any ground contamination that might occur.

The past year I've been working hard to minimize the amount of packaged food we purchase, opting  instead to use most of the food budget for whole foods and organic food when possible.  This has resulted in slightly more cooking and food preparation time but overall more satisfaction with our meals and snacks.  I believe this change will make a difference in our family's health long term and think that eating mostly whole, fresh foods makes me feel less guilty when we do indulge in the packaged food variety.  Don't get me wrong - we still use packaged food, especially crackers and some snacks.  We just use less of it and are trying to cut out even more and our garden will help with that effort.  If you are trying to do the same, a good site for ideas on how to achieve this is 100 Days of Real Food.

We are members of our local zoo and they have an ongoing conservation effort to educate the public on the environmental impact of some food ingredients.  Long story short, we learned that Emma's beloved Nutella uses palm oil and the way it is harvested is endangering the orangutan habitat and the species.  For more information on this you can visit:  www.rspo.org.   Since we love the orangutan we ceased all purchased of Nutella after that and started looking at the list of ingredients we buy to determine what includes palm oil.  Turns out a lot of items contain it!  Yikes!  So, we are trying to patronize companies that use sustainable palm oil.  Today I purchased Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter and it is a nice alternative to Nutella.  It's more expensive but we don't use much and since it is a food that motivates Emma to eat on days when eating just seems like too much effort for her it was a good purchase for our family.

These are a few things we are doing everyday to try and minimize our impact on Earth.  If you have some actions you are taking please consider putting them in the comments section as we are open to more ideas.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Progress, softball and other updates

We are fully immersed with life!  Is that a fancy way of saying we are busy or what??!!!

Emma has been getting glowing reports from school since Spring Break.  I mean, it is a bit ridiculous how good they are and I'm actually getting calls with the therapists so excited about her progress that they just have to call and tell me rather than write it in her communication notebook.  They really are that excited and I'm actually taking time to bask in the glow of the good reports!  I don't get them too often and I have noticed that they usually come after long breaks from school....so Emma's refusal to do anything that seemed like a bit of physical work during Spring Break seems to be paying off in dividends.  That's my girl!

We are still in tour mode of schools for Emma's kindergarten and likely her elementary school education.  We have a couple more tours and evaluations lined up and then I guess we'll meet with our school district to discuss our thoughts before we as a team decide her placement.  I do think it will be a hard decision, though, with pros and cons to the various placements.  We might even wind up with a hybrid plan since the district seems very open to creating an education placement specifically for Emma that addresses our wants for Emma.  Stay tuned for further details.

Julia has been enjoying her first softball season.  When asked if she wanted to go on a special lunch cruise on the river she declined in favor of her softball game that is scheduled at the same time.  She has been practicing a lot and it is paying off.  Sunday she had her first hit at bat and then had another hit as an RBI.  Way to go, Julia!  At tonight's game she had another two hits out of three at bats and her confidence in her abilities is gaining with each game.  We are excited to see how the season unfold for her and her team.  Tonight they had their first win and the girls were fired up over winning.  I just love all the energy they have and wish I could bottle a bit for me.

At school Julia attended an assembly for a movie about a child in a wheelchair and his friend who could walk.  Julia didn't mention it to me until the school told me about it and so I asked her to tell me about the movie.  She told me it was about a boy in a wheelchair who didn't have a ramp to get outside his house and play in the yard so when his friend came over to ask him to play he couldn't.  The friend then got some wood and built a ramp so the child in the wheelchair could leave the porch and wheel down to the yard to play.  Julia liked that the friend helped but didn't really comment on the wheelchair.  I took this opportunity to ask her some questions about what she thought about having a sister in a wheelchair.  She told me that she doesn't think Emma minds using a wheelchair and I agreed with her.  She then told me she loves having a sister in a wheelchair because Emma wins lots of prizes and she  shares them with the family.  I didn't understand this so Julia told me that Emma gets to go to lots of amusement parks, special rides on the Blimp, tickets to Disney on Ice and that it's just great because she always lets Julia go with her!  So there you have it - I'm so glad I asked ;-)

As for us, well, Chris is glad to be back at work in his normal routine after a week long stint at jury duty and I've been doing a lot of spring cleaning and still have a long ways to go.  It keeps getting cut short because of all the insurance calls (appeals in progress for the powerchair denials...), kindergarten legwork and visits along with the never ending sea of paperwork that I try and fit into the few days a week where I have a few hours without children around.  Plus I'm trying to purge a lot of our possessions and it just isn't going as easy as I thought because it seems I have a proclivity to want to hang on to things that I'm not longer using for "just in case."  Maybe it's time to watch an episode of Hoarders to kick me into high gear?  Knowing that we will eventually move again keeps me from moving this task to the bottom of my to do list where I would like it.

It is with sadness that I tell you sweet Gavin earned his angel wings.  RIP our little superhero.  Our prayers are with your family.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hopeful Parents

My monthly post is up over at Hopeful Parents.  You can view it by clicking on this link or read below.

Life is precious

Life is precious and fleeting.  This is a heavy lesson to learn and it's one I've become keenly aware of since joining the parenting journey of a child with special needs.

Over the past five plus years I have met families - so many families - that are in some way impacted by a child with special needs.  I've learned to care deeply for their children and include them in my prayers and I know they include us in prayer, too.

Some families I've met in person, some I've only spoken to through long distance phone calls, some I've met only online.  It doesn't matter how we've "met" because I am invested in their families.  Their triumphs, their tragedies and everything in between.

Some precious children are very sick.  We expect that we will have to say goodbye to those children and pray fiercely for a miracle while also praying for a good quality of life while they are here.  It is sad when they leave us and that fact that it is often expected barely softens the blow of the loss.

Some precious children are stable and we are so thankful for stable, for it can be a wonderful blessing to have "stable" when living with a child with special needs.

Some children are defying all the odds stacked against them.  These precious children are proving doctors and tests wrong.  They are walking when they shouldn't.  They are seeing when test results say they cannot see.  They are now hearing after being told they cannot hear.  They inspire us to continue to pray and to believe in everyday miracles.

The fact is all of these children are changing people and the world around them for the better.  Often, as is the case with my daughter Emma, without even saying a word.

This week our community will say goodbye to a little boy, Gavin, who inspired so many thanks to his amazing mom who openly shares their family journey on her blog Chasing Rainbows.  This was unexpected and hits very close to home.  I know Gavin, I know Kate;  mostly through phone calls, facebook posts, blog posts and occasional face-to-face meetings.  Gavin is only a few days older than Emma and they have a lot in common.  Kate and Gavin inspire me and my heart has been heavy since I heard about Gavin's sudden decline.

The past 5 years have changed me.  I try hard not take the days for granted.  I tell and show my children each day that they are so very loved.  I celebrate accomplishments big and small.  I am inspired often to dig a little deeper and strive to become a better person, wife, mother.

Life is precious.  Life is fleeting.  This much I know.

Monday, April 8, 2013

*Inch*stone Captured

When Emma was very young, when we first found out about her cerebral palsy, we thought that perhaps only her arms would be effected.  We saw that she wasn't using her arms or hands very good but we thought her legs seemed to be moving around pretty well.  I had researched a ton on CP and found that usually CP has the following effects:

  • All limbs effected
  • One side of the body limbs effected (i.e., arms and legs on right side of body)
  • Legs effected
We wondered early on if it was possible that Emma would "only" have her arms effected and that the rest of her body would work fine.  Doctors didn't really have an answer for me and we started therapy to address her arms.  Chris and I expected that she would walk but maybe have trouble with writing.  Let's just say our expectations have been reset over the years because as of now she is neither writing or walking unassisted.  

Emma had THE BEST occupational therapist (OT) for early intervention and she was able to see her up to 3x/week and made a lot of progress with her hands and arms.  Since we moved Emma has only received OT at school and we've noticed that her arms were getting tighter and her resting position was often with her arms curled up, wrists bent and thumbs inside her fist.  She wasn't always in that position so I hadn't realized just how tight she had become until I noticed that in most of her recent photos her arms were in this non preferred position.  Here is a photo with her left arm in the curled up position, but lots of times she had been curling up both arms.  

I started to worry that most of the doctors Emma saw were not even looking at her arms.  They focused on her hearing, her legs, her hips, her feet, her feeding, her talking, etc.  Everyone I talked to about her arms sort of glossed over my concerns so I made an appointment for her to see a physiatrist and I'm so glad I did!  She is concerned with the whole of Emma.  Not arms, not feet, not ears, etc.  All of Emma and she listened to my concerns about her arms and made some very good suggestions and she is now on team Emma and in our every 6 months appointment rotation which makes me very happy!

Some changes we've made is focusing more on arm/hand/wrist stretches, purchased Benik splints to help her wrists and thumb stay in a more neutral position and added in an extra OT session outside of school (not sure I'm thrilled with the provider, though, so we will likely be looking around for an alternative provider that fits in our schedule).  

Emma with her splints on
The past couple weeks I've noticed some changes.  I've found her sleeping with her arms over her head on several occasions.  She has a hard time raising her arms up high and in rest she typically slept with her arms curled up or with them by her hips. And then this morning when I went in to wake her up she seemed to be starting to stir and she brought her forearms over her eyes and rubbed a few times.  She didn't rub her eyes with her fists, but did slide her forearm back and forth so there was no mistaking it was a rubbing of her eyes before she opened them like most of us do in the morning.  And then she opened her eyes and was a bit startled to see me standing over her smiling down and she giggled.  

When we were in Washington D.C. Emma was resting in the corner of a chair and she brought her hands to her mouth and put her finger in it like she has been sitting like this for years.  She hasn't and it was big news in my book that she was sitting like that while moving her arms so loosely.

Yesterday we visited the zoo and Emma was very interested in the animals - she is branching out from her love of watching people at the zoo to attending a bit more to the animals ;-)  At the giraffes she even reached out for the fence, placed a finger on it (wow, this is HARD to isolate a finger from her fist!) and then her open hand on it before swinging her arm over the whole bar.  I caught a bit of it with my camera and was so excited because this was a big *inchstone* for Emma.  

Emma's starting to use her arms more and it's worth documenting;  it's worth celebrating!  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Break Recap

Spring Break.  The weather hasn't really felt too much like spring but we are getting there.  The girl's school had break scheduled so that a week overlapped this year and we took advantage of the time by heading to Washington D.C. for a couple of nights, some fun around the house and catching up on some doctor appointments.

Here is a bit of our break captured in photos:

While in D.C. the girls rated the hotel pool and family movie presentation in the lobby as highlights.  Yes, my girls love vacation for the hotel!  We visited a couple of museum's and walked along the National Mall where we visited the White House visitor center (our tour of the White House was cancelled along with many other's tours due to the sequestration!), the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and World War II memorials.

The memorials are always so moving, but the Vietnam Memorial had my eyes watering.  It's so moving, so solemn and we knew at least one name on the wall.  We saw the many flowers visitors left, a Father/Son that were looking at a name and making impressions of it on a piece of paper by rubbing a pencil over it, and a group of Veteran's visiting the Memorial.  Julia asked a lot of questions about the memorial and I answered appropriately for her age.  Emma didn't ask questions but she did seem to be effected by the experience - she wasn't squealing with delight at the obvious sadness some people were demonstrating which is unusual since she usually loves to laugh at other's misery...I can't explain it so don't ask!

Of the museums we toured, Julia said the President's exhibit at the American History museum and the video at the White House visitor center were her favorites.  We've been teaching her a bit about our government and our elected officials and I think she is absorbing enough of the information to ask good questions.  I told her perhaps she could be President some day and she said to me, "Mommy, do they even let girls be President?"  I replied that maybe by the time she grows up there will already have been a woman President and pointed out that President Obama is the first black President so she should believe that everything is possible.

We also celebrated a few birthday's over the break, hosted our annual Easter Egg hunt with good friends, dyed eggs, played house and entered into the busy world of Softball.  Julia joined a team this year and is having a lot of fun with it even though she is "a little scared of the ball."  She is making a lot of progress in her skills and is gaining in confidence.  We think that by next season she won't be so afraid of the ball but are glad that her fear is not stopping her from having a lot of fun!  She seems to really enjoy softball and the team aspect of a sport which is quite different from her dancing where she competes as an individual.  I think dance and softball complement each other nicely.

Julia returned to school last week and Emma returns tomorrow.  It was about 3.5 weeks that I had one of my little girls home with me everyday and I think the girls like returning back to their routine.  I can just imagine the happy dance Emma will do when her bus comes in the morning - I think she missed school a lot!  As for me, I'll keep busy this week by touring a couple of programs suggested for Emma's kindergarten placement, following up on insurance appeals (where the denials were upheld and we have to appeal again!) and various other things.

Spring Break is over and I guess next up will be the countdown to summer but that can wait a while.  I'd like to enjoy a bit of Spring first!